The Empire State Building a New Taliban Home?

Remember when Obama released the top 5 Taliban commanders from Gitmo in exchange for Bowe Bergdahl? Qatar became their new home where they were allowed to move freely.

Sure the headline is a stretch…or is it?

As recently as last year, Qatar was hosting peace talks with the Taliban while today, the Taliban holds more territory in Afghanistan than any other time in history. As a reminder, it was and is the Taliban that protects al Qaeda factions going back to the attacks on America on 9/11.

 

One more fact: How Qatar is funding the rise of Islamist extremists

The fabulously wealthy Gulf state, which owns an array of London landmarks and claims to be one of our best friends in the Middle East, is a prime sponsor of violent Islamists

So, American icons such as the Empire State Building is in the ownership of a terror state? Cary Grant and Deborah Kerr are rolling in their graves with disgust.

 <– His son graduated from West Point and Obama was there the same weekend that the Gitmo prisoner swap happened with Bergdahl.

VOA: Qatar’s sovereign wealth fund has made an iconic purchase in America — a stake in the company that owns New York’s Empire State Building.

The $622-million purchase by the Qatar Investment Authority comes as the Doha fund increases its investments in the U.S. as the small country on the Arabian Peninsula tries to cope with low global oil and gas prices.

The Empire State Realty Trust Inc., which manages the 102-story, 1,454-foot (443-meter) -tall building, announced the Qatari purchase late Tuesday, saying the fund would gain a 9.9-percent stake in the company. The trust owns a total of 14 office properties and six retail properties around the New York area.

The Qatar Investment Authority did not respond to a request for comment Wednesday.

The pointed top of the Art Deco-style Empire State Building, once the tallest structure in the world, still stands out in New York’s famed skyline. It remains a major tourist attraction and has been the centerpiece of major American films from “King Kong” to “Sleepless in Seattle.”

Tiny Qatar, an OPEC member, is a strong regional ally for Washington and hosts American bombers and the forward headquarters of the U.S. military’s Central Command at its vast al-Udeid air base. Aircraft and personnel there are involved in the ongoing U.S.-led campaign against the Islamic State group in Iraq and Syria.

Qatar will host the 2022 FIFA World Cup and has been on a building boom, mirroring on a smaller scale the one that gripped the United Arab Emirates’ city-state of Dubai. However, its government coffers have been hard hit by the drop of global oil prices, which have fallen from over $100 a barrel in the summer of 2014 to around $50 now.

The nation’s investment authority, estimated to be worth some $335 billion by the Las Vegas-based Sovereign Wealth Fund Institute, has been increasingly eyeing opportunities in the U.S. Last September, it announced plans to open an office in New York and committed to investing $35 billion in the U.S. over the next five years.

Related reading: Qatar Investment Authority allocates $2bn to Russian fund

The fund’s existing American holdings include a more than 10-percent stake in New York-based luxury jeweler Tiffany & Co. It sold its share of the American film studio Miramax to Qatar-based media group beIN in March for an undisclosed sum.

Government-backed Qatar Airways, meanwhile, has been rapidly expanding its operations in the U.S., provoking a backlash from American carriers.

Also among the Qatari fund’s interests in America is a 44-percent stake in the $8.6 billion redevelopment project in New York known as Manhattan West, which includes remodeling the building that’s now home to the global headquarters of The Associated Press. The AP announced in August 2015 it planned to move from that building to another near the World Trade Center.

Back in 2012, The Story was Written on the Abedin Family

Primer: THE ORGANIZATION OF ISLAMIC, COOPERATION’S JIHAD ON FREE SPEECH

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Huma wears Prada and Dolce & Gabbana.

The Abedin Family’s Pro-Jihadist Journal

(Adapted from this essay)

Steadily burgeoning evidence indicates that one of Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s closest aides, Huma Abedin, despite Ms. Clinton’s protestation, was inadequately vetted for either family, or personal ties to the Muslim Brotherhood. Diligent, open source investigation has already uncovered and documented numerous alarming connections. One can reasonably infer that a serious, formal Congressional investigation of the overall extent of Muslim Brotherhood influence operations—as requested by Representatives Bachmann, Gohmert, Franks, Westmoreland, and Rooney—might yield even more disturbing findings.

Pending these sorely needed Congressional inquiries—replete with their probing investigative tools—much can still be gleaned from the public record. For example, over the past 33 years, Huma Abedin’s family has been responsible for the editorial production of the Institute of Muslim Minority Affairs (IMMA)’s academic journal, known as Institute of Muslim Minority Affairs. Journal, from 1979-1995, and Journal of Muslim Minority Affairs [JMMA], from 1996. till now, starting with family patriarch Syed Z. Abedin’s, and Huma’s mother, Saleha Abedin’s, founding involvement since 1979, and subsequently joined by Huma’s brother Hassan Abedin (1996 to present), Huma herself (1996 to 2008), and Huma’s sister, Heba (married name Khalid, or Khaled; 2002 to present).

Syed Abedin, in the inaugural edition of the IMMA journal, gives an effusive tribute to one of his IMMA co-founders, Dr. Abdullah Omar Nasseef, Chairman of the IMMA. During his concurrent tenure as Secretary-General of the Muslim World League—a combined Saudi Wahhabi, Muslim Brotherhood-dominated organization—in July, 1988, Naseef also created the Rabita Trust, and became its chairman. On October 12, 2001, then President George W. Bush’s Executive Order named Rabita Trust as a Specially Designated Global Terrorist Entity, and the US Treasury Department froze its assets, while Naseef was still serving as the Trust’s chairman. Nasseef remained on the IMMA journal Editorial Board through 2003, overlapping Huma Abedin’s tenure for 7-years (i.e., 1996-2003).

The current (April/May 2012) issue of the Institute of Muslim Minority Affairs journal (JMMA) features two essays, introduced with lavish praise by Editor Saleha Abedin, which champion, unabashedly:

  • The global hegemonic aspirations of major 20th century Muslim Brotherhood jihadist ideologues, such as the eminent Muslim Brotherhood theoretician, Sayyid Qutb (d. 1966), and Abul Hasan Nadwi (d. 1999)
  • The more expansive application of Sharia within Muslim minority communities residing in the West, with the goal of replacing these non-Muslim governing systems, as advocated by contemporary Muslim Brotherhood jihadist ideologues, Yusuf al-Qaradawi, and Taha Jabir al-Alwani

One of these JMMA essays repeats, approvingly, Qutb’s pejorative characterization of the West as a “disastrous combination of avid materialism, and egoistic individualism.” Abul Hasan Nadwi, was a founding member of the Muslim World League, a member of the Organization of Islamic Conference (now Cooperation), a member of the World Supreme Council of Mosques, and a member of the Fiqh Council of Rabita.  In a triumphal 1951 manifesto extolling Islamic supremacism, Nadwi had proclaimed  “Behold the world of man looking with rapture at the world of Islam as its savior, and behold the world of Islam fixing its gaze on the Arab world as its secular and spiritual leader. Will the world of Islam realize the hope of the world of men? And will the Arab world realize the hope of the Muslim world?” Citing Nadwi with admiration, the same JMMA article opines, “[T]he confrontation has taken the shape of an ‘Islamic project’ in the Muslim world against Western modernity…. The war that has been declared against Western modernity now seeks a new modernity…unlike Western modernity.”

Another featured essay from the current issue of the JMMA is a fitting complement to  the journal’s endorsement of the global Islamic supremacist agenda. This essay endorses the so-called “innovative” application of the  “Jurisprudence of Muslim Minorities,” living, for example, in the West, whose stated purpose is, “enforcement of shari’ah on the Muslim communities.” However, by the essay’s own expressed standard: “The theory of the Jurisprudence of Muslim Minorities is most easily clarified by shedding light on its founders.”

The two founders of this legal doctrine, as the essay  notes, are Yusuf al-Qaradawi of Qatar, and Taha Jabir al-Alwani of Virginia, USA.

Qaradawi has publicly advocated:

  • The re-creation of a formal transnational United Islamic State (Islamic Caliphate)
  • The jihad conquests of Europe, and the Americas
  • Universal application of the Sharia, including Islamic blasphemy law, and the hadd punishments (for example, notably, executing so-called “apostates” from Islam)

Al-Alwani, writing as president of the International Institute of Islamic Thought (IIIT), a think tank created by the Muslim Brotherhood in the early 1980s, stated, regarding a (then) new English translation of the classic Shafiite manual of Islamic jurisprudence Reliance of the Traveller“from a purely academic point of view, this translation is superior to anything produced by orientalists in the way of translations of major Islamic works.” Notwithstanding al-Alwani’s glowing tribute,  Reliance of the Traveller sanctions open-ended jihadism to subjugate the world to a totalitarian Islamic Caliphate; rejection of bedrock Western liberties—including freedom of conscience and speech—enforced by imprisonment, beating, or death; discriminatory relegation of non-Muslims to outcast, vulnerable pariahs, and even Muslim women to subservient chattel (who must be segregated and undergo female genital mutilation); and barbaric punishments which violate human dignity, such as amputation for theft, stoning for adultery, and lashing for alcohol consumption. Moreover,

  • Al-Alwani wished Islamized Spain had conquered America and spread Islam in our hemisphere, not Christianity. He stated,  “Perhaps some of them [Muslims from Spain] would have been the ones who discovered America, not someone else, and America could have possibly been today among the lands of the Muslims”
  • Al-Alwani was named as an unindicted co-conspirator in the case against Sami Al-Arian who pled guilty to conspiracy to aid the terrorist organization, Palestinian Islamic Jihad.
  • al-Alwani published an essay online, discovered (and translated from Arabic to English) in July 2011, entitled “The Great Haughtiness”, which promoted conspiratorial Islamic Jew-hatred replete with Koranic references, conjoined to modern “Zionist conspiracies”

The Abedin family “academic” journal is a thinly veiled mouthpiece for the Muslim Brotherhood’s Sharia-supremacist agenda.  One can now add this conclusive, public record evidence to a host of other bona fide justifications for the Congressional inquiry demanded by Representative Bachmann, and her four intrepid colleagues.

Reasons Why Terror in Europe will Never Go Away

Perhaps the countries of Europe should consider more aggressive sentencing for crimes as a starter. There are some real lessons here for America.

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The Jihadi Joker, Anjem Choudary, Was a Terror Mastermind

For 20 years, long before ISIS, he abetted terror plots in the U.K. and around the world. Now that he’s in jail, will he continue his work there?
DailyBeast: LONDON — Perhaps the world’s most mainstream pro-ISIS Western media agitator, Anjem Choudary, finally has been convicted of terrorism in the United Kingdom.
It took 20 years to bring him to justice, but after jurors at the Old Bailey heard last week that he’d pledged allegiance to the so-called Islamic State, they were not going to let Choudary walk free again. He now faces up to 10 years in prison.
I first met Anjem in 1995 when I was 17 years old. Back then, we were both students of the pro-caliphate group Hizb ut-Tahrir (HT).
A year before, HT had organized an international caliphate conference at Wembley Arena. In an unprecedented move, we gathered 10,000 people under orange banners proclaiming “Khilafah [caliphate]—coming soon to a country near you.”
Then, one of our associates, Saeed Nur, murdered the Nigerian student Ayotunde Obanubi on the campus of Newham College in London. This was probably Britain’s first jihadist street murder.
I was expelled from the same college due to my unruly Islamist activity, and I got in touch with Anjem because he was a lawyer, and I was seeking his legal advice. But our paths soon diverged.
Eventually, I left Islamism altogether, but after the murder at Newham the more extreme al-Muhajiroun broke away from HT, and Anjem was appointed its U.K. leader. They began to call openly for jihad.
During the two decades that followed, many of us, Muslim or otherwise, dismissed Anjem as an irrelevant fringe voice, almost a parody of an extremist. But like an evil clown, Anjem courted this jester brand while concealing beneath it an incredibly nefarious network. Our neglect and mockery of his manic call to enforce a burqa on the queen and fly the ISIS black flag over Downing Street suited him perfectly.
But evidence now shows that Anjem Choudary was one of the most dangerous extremists in Europe.
Over the course of his 20-year jihadist freefall, Anjem’s group al-Muhajiroun and its “Sharia For…” offshoots have been deemed responsible for half of all U.K. terrorist attacks. Anjem himself has been directly linked to the RAF Lakenheath plot, to radicalizing Jihadi John’s British successor Siddhartha Darr, the Anzac Day plot in Australia, the plot to behead a British soldier, the murder of drummer Lee Rigby at Woolwich in London, the Royal Wooten Basset plot, the London Stock Exchange Plot, and suicide bomber Omar Khan Sharif’s 2003 attack in Tel Aviv. Anjem has also been indirectly linked to London’s 7/7 bombings, the shoe bomber, the ricin plot, the fertilizer bomb plot, the dirty bomb plot, and the Transatlantic bomb plot.
Around 6,000 European citizens don’t just get up out of a vacuum and leave to join the worst terrorist group of our lifetime. Anjem Choudary was a key voice responsible for cultivating what eventually became this ISIS support network in Europe. And he acted with impunity.
No surprises, then, that police revealed his link to 500 British jihadists fighting with ISIS in Syria.
At my counter-extremism organization Quilliam, we had been warning about this for years, only to be suspected of taking the court jester too seriously.
But Anjem was the jihadist Fagin: the ideologue who produced the zombies; the battlefield standard bearer to whom they all rallied; the inciter who took them to the brink, while remaining just on the right side of the law to survive another day.
While we dismissed him as a clown, Anjem was no fool. His jester brand was cynical, deliberate, and planned. He was a trained criminal lawyer who stopped practicing law only because he came to believe that appealing to man-made law meant apostasy.
With hindsight, many may now be wondering how such flagrant incitement was tolerated in Britain for over 20 years. His story serves as a lesson in tolerating gross intolerance. But now that Anjem is in prison, another challenge confronts us. He will be held for a while at HMP Belmarsh, previously described as a jihadist training camp. How will he be stopped from playing his wicked tune through his crooked flute in jail? This time his audience is made up of hardened criminals.
As a society, we are that far behind in countering extremist propaganda that even jailing jihadists can exacerbate the problem. There are some, though, who work exclusively with incarcerated terrorists in order to deradicalize them. My friend and colleague Usman Raja’s organization The Unity Initiative specializes in just such a task. Usman has a track record initiating a certain change in people like Jordan Horner, a convicted member of the “Muslim Patrol” group that was prowling London’s streets enforcing its medieval take on Sharia, and Ali Beheshti, leader of the “Jewel of Medina” petrol bomb plot.
Both men had ties to Anjem’s group al-Muhajiroun but have now apologized for their past jihadist extremism. It may be slightly too optimistic to see this happening to Anjem anytime soon, but action to at least neutralize his recruitment efforts must certainly be considered. And any plan should form a blueprint for building such intervention to scale, globally.
The way in which my path eventually forked from Anjem’s symbolizes the split at the heart of the civil war playing out within Muslim communities, and beyond: Islamists against secularists. Muslims with varying levels of devotion, and even non-Muslims, sit on both sides of this divide. They straddle a largely passive Muslim majority that values its religion and culture but just wants to get on in life.
Islamist theocrats will not allow them to do so.
A civil war has unfolded within Islam, and none of us can any longer afford to remain neutral. First and foremost, this is an ideological war. The state, private companies, and civil society must intervene on behalf of secularists. A rally of thousands calling for a caliphate at Wembley in 1995 followed by a jihadist murder on London’s streets should have acted as a clear warning of the ISIS brutality that was set to follow.
Anjem’s story highlights the dangers of underestimating theocratic Islamist ideologues while allowing their ideology of Islamism to fester as it morphs into violent jihadism. We all stood by hoping it was just going to go away by itself. It hasn’t. And it won’t.
This cancer requires treatment.
*****
Why Europe Can’t Find The Jihadis In Its Midst

BuzzFeed: A small, well-organized ISIS cell has been at work in the heart of Europe for years, recruiting criminals, exploiting freedom of movement, and evading counterterrorism efforts. This spring and summer, as multiple attacks rocked Europe, Mitch Prothero spoke to the people shuttling between investigating the crimes that had already happened, while struggling to prevent new ones.

BRUSSELS, Belgium — The assignment given to the Belgian police in the summer of 2014 was straightforward but high stakes: Follow two men suspected of involvement with ISIS through the streets of Brussels. Find out who they meet, record what they say. A court had approved wiretaps for the men’s phones and for the use of tracking devices, and a specialized team of covert operators from the secret service had broken into the men’s homes and vehicles and planted bugs and GPS devices without leaving a trace.

Rather unusually, there had been little problem getting senior police officials and the courts that oversee Belgium’s personal privacy laws to approve the mission. Partly, it was the two men’s history: They had long criminal records — drug dealing, petty theft, and the occasional violent robbery — and now, unbeknownst to them, had been placed on a terrorism watch list.

With hundreds of people suspected of having ties to ISIS and al-Qaeda, it would be impossible for the Belgian authorities to monitor all of them. But these two were believed to be linked to Mehdi Nemmouche, a 29-year-old French-Algerian man charged with killing four people at the Jewish Museum of Brussels on May 24, 2014.

Belgian authorities knew there had been an alarming increase in violent rhetoric — as evidenced by the proliferation of online videos and public demonstrations, and by the criminal trials of members of Sharia4Belgium, a group advocating extremist ideology — much of it linked to the rise of ISIS in Syria and Iraq. But even for trained investigators, let alone police officers typically assigned to financial fraud or money-laundering cases, getting an overall sense of what was happening remained elusive.

In part this was because of the transformation in the threat posed by ISIS militants; as nebulous as al-Qaeda had been, it was at least an organization with a defined leadership and network of followers. These new cases were much more challenging, seemingly organic in nature, with a more diffuse structure that was nearly impossible to pin down.

The cops hoped that the surveillance of the two suspects would shed light on what they feared was a new kind of international jihadist cell in the heart of the European Union’s previously sleepy capital.

“The system was finally somewhat working,” one of the cops who had been tailing the two men told me when we met in a café in Brussels two years later. He was half explaining to me and half trying to make his own sense of what happened, at a time when Europe — and France and Belgium in particular — was being convulsed by repeated terrorist attacks.

“We’d gotten the approval to place electronic surveillance all over these guys,” said the cop, who remains assigned to counterterrorism operations and cannot be identified. “That itself was pretty rare back then. And our covert teams had gotten in and wired them up without being seen. We even had the resources for once to follow them around the clock. It was as good an operation as we have ever set up, and we expected great things from it.”

As the suspects’ car weaved through Brussels’ workday traffic, the cops felt they could relax a bit. Normally, a proper surveillance effort for a suspect requires as many as 20 police officers to watch without being seen. But with tracking and listening devices in the cars and homes of the suspects, the police could simply follow at a safe distance and observe.

“It was going great until they switched from French to Arabic,” said the cop. “At that stage we lost everything. Do you know how long it takes us to get a translation [of a tape] into French from Arabic?”

In this case: three days, but by then they were gone.

“And that was pretty good because officials were motivated. It could be as little as 24 hours if we thought they were literally on the verge of an attack, but three days, one day, whatever — it’s too long.”

By the time translators had prepared a transcript, the men had fled Brussels by train for another European city — the officer refused to say which one — and eventually flew to Istanbul, where they easily made their way to southern Turkey and across the border into parts of Syria then controlled by ISIS.

Like thousands of other militant believers in jihadist ideology, they’d immigrated to the burgeoning proto-caliphate and abandoned their old lives in the “lands of the unbelievers.” In doing so, they disappeared from the eyes of an increasingly worried intelligence community, where many analysts were convinced citizens turned militants would return from training camps in Syria to exploit Europe’s open society and carry out attacks on the continent.

Since 2010, the Belgian and French authorities have been faced with a jihadist problem both more entrenched at home and more deeply interconnected to the international scene than had been previously understood. After last November’s attack on Paris, in which 130 people were killed, the full extent of the problem — not just for Belgium and France, but for the European Union — become tragically clear: An international network has exploited inherent security weaknesses of the EU’s open borders and brought French-speaking militants from Europe into the forefront of international terrorism. Between 2011 and the end of 2015, an estimated 12,000 people from 81 countries joined ISIS in Syria and Iraq, including 1,700 French and almost 500 Belgian residents, according to a comprehensive study of foreign fighters by the Soufan Group. The French S list — a database of suspected extremists and security threats — has grown to nearly 10,000 people, and those are only the people who have been identified.

ISIS militants threaten Europe with a wave of violence not seen since the heyday of 1970s political terrorism, and it appears to have the potential to be far more deadly. Previous terror campaigns led by Ireland’s IRA, Spain’s ETA, and Italy’s Red Brigades tended to have national aspirations and couldn’t exploit total freedom of movement between European countries. Those groups also had political considerations and patrons that forced them to calibrate their violence.

Nativist politicians from Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump to National Front leader Marine le Pen in France play up the notion of ISIS as an existential threat to capitalize on fears about terrorism. All the while, European counterterrorism officials seem overwhelmed by the thousands of names of suspects, stymied by a lack of integration across the EU, and caught on the hoof by perpetrators who often appear to lack any prior extremist links. And in the towns and cities where new jihadists are being recruited and cultivated most fervently, authorities lack the kind of surveillance techniques deployed by their American counterparts.

As the spring and summer of 2016 progressed with attacks and arrests across Europe — at one point in France, Belgium, and Germany, almost weekly — I met with investigators as they struggled to make sense of the new phenomenon, shuttling between crimes that had already happened and struggling to prevent new attacks.

This is what terrorism investigations in Europe look like today.

 Police confront residents in Molenbeek, Brussels, April 2, 2016. Timothy Fadek / Redux

****

Samia Maktouf entered a small conference room in her chic Paris law office, holding a bundle of papers that contained a huge amount of information on ISIS’s international networks.

A French-Tunisian dual citizen, Maktouf works from her law firm on a classic Paris street not far from the Champs-Élysées. A member of the International Criminal Court’s bar, she moves easily between French, Arabic, and English, which serves her well as one of France’s most famous victim advocates, specializing in international terrorism. Precise in her language, she nonetheless sounded livid about the slow release of information by the government that she said hinders her work representing the victims of terror attacks in France and Tunisia, serving as their advocate in the official investigations.

“They’re covering something up,” she said of the investigations into the Paris attacks.

Maktouf is well-aware of the threat posed by this new era. ISIS makes its goals clear via social media and slickly produced propaganda videos: It wants a clash of civilizations that will force both Muslims and non-Muslims to accept that coexistence in Europe isn’t possible. France, with both the largest Muslim population in Europe, at over 6 million people, and a popular xenophobic right-wing political movement led by Marine le Pen, regularly figures in the exhortations of the group and its spokesmen, who often address the issue in French-language videos and online magazines.

Maktouf laid out the connections between various ISIS attacks, across both North Africa and Europe, which she has uncovered through the immense database she has built up on Francophone jihadists since she started investigating in 2010. The repeated links among the attackers have led her to believe that a handful of key figures in the ISIS hierarchy direct most of the international violence, with the European leadership mostly drawn from French-speaking countries.

“The Paris attack was committed by a Belgian cell, we know that,” she said, showing me a hand-drawn chart detailing the connections between people suspected of involvement in about a dozen successful or attempted attacks across France and Belgium since 2010.

The chart was filled with names, dates, and places that are all too familiar: the Bataclan in Paris, Verviers in Belgium, the Jewish Museum of Belgium in Brussels, and the suicide attacks in March that killed 32 people across the Belgian capital. And two men repeatedly connect to the others. The first is well-known from last November’s massacres in Paris: Abdelhamid Abaaoud, who masterminded the operations around the city that killed 130 people and died in a shoot-out with French police five days later. But Paris wasn’t his first attempt at international terrorism: Investigators put him at the center of at least half a dozen smaller or unsuccessful plots since he returned to Europe from ISIS-held territory in late 2014.

The second name isn’t as infamous as Abaaoud’s, but Maktouf argued he’s a more important figure: Fabien Clain, a 40-year-old French convert to Islam now believed to be in Syria or Iraq. It was Clain’s voice, in a recording released online by ISIS, that took credit for the operation. But according to Maktouf and French investigators, his role wasn’t limited to public relations as the voice of the massacre — he is in fact a leading figure inside ISIS’s foreign operations department.

“The Paris and Brussels attacks were directed by Clain,” said Maktouf, pointing at the direct personal links between him and virtually every attack undertaken in France since 2010. “Abaaoud was the man on the ground but … Clain ran the operation.”

Maktouf has been fighting hard to get French authorities to reveal more information about Clain. She wants to find out more about his role in attacks ranging from Brussels and Paris to the 2012 killing spree by al-Qaeda’s Mohammed Merah, which killed seven people, including schoolchildren, in Toulouse. But French authorities have so far rebuffed her requests, citing national security and intelligence concerns.

Clain had first drawn the attention of authorities when he returned to France in 2004, having studied Islam and Arabic in Cairo. He quickly garnered respect within militant circles for his religious scholarship and command of radical Islamic jurisprudence, and in 2009, a French court convicted him of recruiting fighters for al-Qaeda in Iraq, the precursor to ISIS. Upon his release from prison in 2014, he somehow managed to slip away from house arrest and is believed to have escaped to Syria and joined ISIS.

The opaque nature of ISIS’s command structure makes it almost impossible for investigators to know the exact nature of each person’s role. But a French intelligence official and Belgian investigators told me that Clain is now thought to be a top deputy of Salim Benghalem, a French-born jihadist increasingly believed to command European operations for ISIS from Syria. Benghalem — who has called on French-speaking Muslims to support the proto-caliphate via online videos — is himself thought to have risen to an operational command role after starting out as a guard of Western hostages in Raqqa, ISIS’s self-proclaimed capital in Syria.

In stark terms: Clain, Abaaoud, and Benghalem connect to every single successful or failed terror attack in France or Belgium in the last 10 years, according to the chart in Maktouf’s office.

Maktouf also told me something that wasn’t known to the Belgian investigators with whom I was talking. She has discovered that before he went to Cairo in 2004, Clain had lived in the central Brussels neighborhood of Molenbeek — a mainly immigrant and heavily Muslim suburb where the Paris attackers plotted the massacre. It was here, investigators believe, where he became an associate of another senior figure — Khalid Zerkani, a street preacher dubbed “Papa Noel” by the media for his Santa-style beard. In April, a Belgian court sentenced Zerkani to 15 years in prison for radicalizing and sending fighters to Iraq and Syria.

A French intelligence official confirmed to me that a link between Clain and Zerkani was formed back then in Molenbeek, and that it could provide the origin story for one of the most dangerous terror cells in Europe’s history — the Brussels cell that masterminded the Paris and Belgian attacks.

Zerkani’s influence is at the heart of this cell. According to sealed sentencing documents obtained by BuzzFeed News, Zerkani’s recruits included Abaaoud, seen as his star pupil, as well as both Najim Laachraoui and Mohamed Abrini — suspects in both the Paris and Brussels attacks.

A week after speaking with the official, I went to a café in the Belgian capital to meet with a member of the security service to ask him about Clain’s role in the Brussels cell. Clain’s name was well-known to the authorities because of the ISIS statement he issued on the Paris attacks, but the security official I spoke to didn’t seem to make the connection to Brussels until I told him that Clain briefly lived in Molenbeek and knew Zerkani.

“Shit,” he said, taking a sip of his whiskey. “That wouldn’t surprise me at all. It makes sense.”

 Rue Max Roos 4 in in the Schaerbeek district of Brussels, rented by brothers Khalid and Brahim el-Bakraoui. Timothy Fadek / Redux

****

The construction of the Brussels cell reveals how ISIS manipulates criminal mentality in its recruiting and exploits existing underground networks in the heart of the EU to carry out its attacks. Its members were mostly small-time thieves and drug dealers who had been converted to the radical cause by Zerkani.

But the operations carried out by the Brussels cell also reveal how ISIS is capable of taking advantage of the political climate in Europe. Nine attackers carried out the Paris attack, seven of whom have been identified as EU citizens. At least six of them are thought to have traveled to Syria, and then exploited the migrant exodus as cover to re-enter Europe under false names. ISIS had even gone so far as to falsely announce Abdelhamid Abaaoud’s death in Syria in early 2014, shortly before he returned to Europe using faked paperwork.

Not a single European security official would tell me when exactly they realized Abaaoud was in fact still alive and planning attacks in Europe. But by the time of the Paris attacks in November 2015, they were well-aware that he was walking free around Europe and involved in planning operations. Wiretaps and phone intercepts confirmed that he was in contact with other jihadists, but authorities had no idea where he was. Despite an international arrest warrant, he was able to move around as he pleased.

A Belgian military intelligence officer told me earlier this summer that he had tried to track Abaaoud using NATO surveillance in Syria and Iraq, but got nowhere. And he was angry at the bureaucratic chaos at the heart of EU counterterrorism efforts: Member states would file notices with Interpol or Europol about dangerous radicals, but then leave the investigations to be conducted locally on an ad hoc basis. There was no joined-up thinking, he said.

“The police blew it,” said the operative, who works internationally undercover in the Middle East and Africa on terrorism and organized crime issues. “That [Abaaoud] was able to get back in [from Syria] and run things in Brussels, Paris, shows up the UK in August and is seemingly everywhere moving freely … inexcusable.”

The apartment in Paris where Abdelhamid Abaaoud and Chakib Akrouh died during a raid. Christophe Ena / AP Photo

The authorities’ inability to keep track of Abaaoud’s movements is indicative of the complexity of counterterrorism challenges presented by an underworld in which gangsters, jihadists, and ex-convicts come together to share false paperwork, contacts, and safe houses. Abaaoud and his friends were comfortable walking the constantly shifting line between newly minted jihadists and small-time criminals dealing drugs, stealing cars, and selling weapons.

Infiltrating criminal organizations in this world is nearly impossible given their diffuse nature, but sometimes even language is an obstacle. Each European city has developed its own Arabic dialect among local teens and young men, which even fluent speakers can have trouble understanding. Police translators who are comfortable listening to a wiretap of targets from Brussels describe the nightmare of trying to understand a cell based in Antwerp, or outside of Paris.

And there’s little in police textbooks on how to identify suspects in the new jihadist environment, typically but not always first- or second- generation Belgians of North African descent, who often have little religious education or history of piety. If the militants’ own families are often caught off guard by the sudden transition to extremism, police have had little luck predicting who might make the jump from petty crime to brutal ideological murders. And given that so much of the radicalization happens online, or among small groups of friends hanging out together in tight-knit neighborhoods, it is very difficult for police to monitor.

One Belgian investigator tried to explain how ephemeral the situation feels, and how hard it is to distinguish between a criminal and a jihadist, when he described the behavior of a young militant who had returned home after fighting with ISIS. “We have one guy who comes home from Syria to visit people on breaks,” he said. “We know he’s in Syria and he’ll sneak back into the town, see his friends, and go clubbing. We have CCTV of him sniffing lines of coke and drinking in a club on one break before he goes back to Syria.”

The investigator said it felt like he was watching a tape of a soldier on R&R. The kid can take drugs, drink, and have sex all he wants on his break because his inevitable death on an operation will absolve all his past sins.

That’s the gospel that “Papa Noel” Zerkani preached, according to his sentencing documents, and he offered easy redemption from a life of crime and low-rent hedonism. The only catch, of course, is this redemption will often end in murder, or at best, a pointless death in the service of what most people consider the ultimate nihilism. It’s not simply that ISIS offers redemption to a criminal looking to change his ways; it’s that ISIS knows how to target criminals and turn them into jihadists. These young men don’t need to seek redemption — it seeks them out.

Heightened security after the March 22, 2016, attack that killed at least 30 and injured hundreds at the airport and Maalbeek metro station in Brussels. Timothy Fadek / Redux

On an overcast afternoon in early March, the family and friends of Chakib Akrouh gathered together for his funeral at a cemetery in Brussels. The 25-year-old son of Moroccan immigrants had blown himself up in November 2015 alongside his childhood friend Abaaoud, five days after the Paris attacks, but it had taken months for authorities to identify him. The blast had shredded his body so completely that only after comparing Akrouh’s DNA with his mother’s were investigators certain enough of his identity to release the remains to his family.

What those in attendance at the funeral didn’t know was that they were being monitored by a special unit of Belgian intelligence officers.

That’s because police hoped that tracking them would help lead them to Salah Abdeslam, one of the team members who had carried out the Paris attack but who did not blow himself up. The subject of one of the largest-ever manhunts in Europe, Abdeslam, for the past four months, seemingly had no trouble hiding out in Brussels — a city of just over 1 million people.

Abdeslam was no terrorist mastermind. He hadn’t trained in Syria, had only been entrusted with a minor logistical role in the Paris attack by Abaaoud, and had left behind a trail of evidence. There was CCTV footage of him before and after the attack, there were car-rental records, and the police had even arrested a friend who had picked him up from Paris and driven him back to Brussels — but despite all this, he remained at large.

“Some of these guys were pretty good but we were surprised it was taking so long to get Salah. He’d left clues all over Europe preparing for the Paris attack,” according to a Belgian cop involved in the search. When asked why Salah was so careless, the detective responded bluntly: “He was supposed to die, so why bother covering tracks on car rentals?

Finding Abdeslam, police hoped, would also lead them to whoever built the suicide vests used in the Paris attacks, a critical concern. Homemade explosives aren’t that hard to manufacture, but making vests stable enough to explode at the right time is far from easy.

The Belgian authorities were at their wits’ end. But it was the funeral that provided the breakthrough in the hunt for Abdeslam. While normal wiretaps and mobile phone surveillance can be done by small intelligence and police services such as those in Belgium, grabbing huge amounts of phone data and electronic signal intelligence — and rapidly processing it — was beyond their capabilities.

The Belgian authorities knew they needed help, and had made a decision, which has not been previously reported, to involve an ally with a vested interest in dismantling a dangerous ISIS network: They called on the US National Security Agency (NSA).

“We had the NSA hit that phone very hard.” 

“We called the American NSA before the funeral,” said one state security official, whose account was later confirmed by a Belgian police official. “As Edward Snowden has so helpfully explained to everyone, the NSA are the best at signal intercepts and [with their help] we grabbed all the information about all the phones present.”

The two officials described the scene at the funeral, where a known suspect was filming on his cell phone: “The guy is filming on a smartphone — that tells us he’s going to send that file to someone, right?” the security service source said. “We had the NSA hit that phone very hard.”

The NSA refused to comment on the operation, but a spokesman for the Director of National Intelligence forwarded an article in which James Clapper said: “The NATO Alliance faces an increasingly complex, diffuse threat environment. Consequently, we are always striving toward more integrated intelligence to stay a step ahead.”

On March 15, just a few days after the funeral, Belgian police made a move based on the information they had garnered from the NSA. Alongside French investigators, they raided an apartment in the Brussels neighborhood of Forest. It ended in a firefight; four officers were wounded and one of the occupants was killed. But investigators learned from fingerprint and DNA evidence that Abdeslam and a co-conspirator, Mohamed Abrini, had been there, although the two men escaped over city rooftops during the shoot-out.

It was an embarrassing blow to the investigation, but the NSA was at least now helping the Belgians track the suspects via their phones. Having lost his safe house, Abdeslam was forced to move around and communicate with people outside his rapidly shrinking network. Abdeslam and Abrini called a friend searching for a new place to hide out.

That’s when, according to the military intelligence official, they got him: “Finally … we have this asshole.”

Armed Belgian police apprehend Salah Abdeslam in Molenbeek. Vtm Via Reuters

“He went to ground in the only place he knew well,” said the official. “Molenbeek.”

Within days, Abdeslam was arrested just 100 meters from his childhood home in Molenbeek. But amid the relief at his capture, police remained worried: The bomb maker for the Paris attacks remained at large.

Police officials around the EU described themselves as being unable to sleep until they had the bomb maker in custody. DNA and fingerprint evidence on one of the abandoned vests used in Paris pointed to Najim Laachraoui, a 24-year-old Belgian-Moroccan engineering student who had disappeared into Syria to fight for ISIS in late 2013. Yet another petty criminal turned jihadist from Molenbeek, Laachraoui was considered by police to be more dangerous than Abdeslam, and far more intelligent.

In the hours after his arrest, Abdeslam initially cooperated with police as he was treated for a gunshot wound to his leg, identifying photos of Laachraoui and two gangster brothers known for trying to join ISIS in Syria, investigators at the time told me. He warned that a plot to bomb Brussels was underway. The target date, according to Abdeslam, was the day after Easter, two weeks away.

But just four days later, bombs tore through Brussels Airport and a metro stop servicing the European Union headquarters complex. DNA evidence concluded Laachraoui and two brothers, Khalid and Brahim el-Bakraoui, died in the blasts. Two more suspects, including Abrini, evaded police until they were arrested on April 8.

The aftermath of the attack gave counterterrorism a series of leads to follow, resulting in a flurry of arrests across France, Germany, and Belgium that authorities claim disrupted a major plot. On March 25, French police arrested Reda Kriket, a French national convicted in Belgium as part of the Papa Noel cell in Molenbeek, in an apartment laden with explosives on the outskirts of Paris. Authorities refused to comment on whether NSA assistance led to his arrest, but French officials described his plot as advanced.

 A memorial for the people who died in the attack on Brussels on March 22. Timothy Fadek / Redux

Guns are supposed to be hard to obtain in Europe. Strict laws, especially compared with the United States, tightly limit their sale — a would-be killer can’t just head to a local Walmart and purchase an AK-47.

But automatic weapons have played major roles in the attack on the offices of the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo in January 2015, the massacres in Paris, as well as in failed attacks on a church and a high-speed train. Police have recovered them in raids on multiple locations in Belgium and France, including the Forest safe house where Abdeslam was hiding shortly before he was caught.

In mid-March, I met with “Eddy,” an Albanian man in his forties, at a bar about a mile from the central Brussels tourist district. It was a small, shabby place; red fluorescent lighting clashed with the green vinyl barstools. It was the sort of bar frequented only by a handful of regulars, some of whom had met to drink beer and Balkan schnapps while music videos blared out from TV screens. Everyone was smoking in open defiance of EU regulations. They appeared unused to strangers coming in for a beer.

Slim, but with an emerging middle-age paunch, Eddy slipped comfortably between English, French, Romanian, Serbo-Croatian, and Albanian. He gleefully described his family as “big and notorious” in the former Yugoslavia, which he fled during the Balkan Wars of the 1990s.

Within a few years of arriving in Western Europe, Eddy and his family had set up a variety of “import-export” businesses in Brussels, drawn to its central location in the heart of Europe and because of the ease of entering illegal markets compared with the Netherlands and Germany, where older, more deeply entrenched gangs run the show.

“Brussels is sort of wide open for business.”

“Brussels is sort of wide open for business,” he said. “Everyone is here, but nobody is in complete control of business. It’s considered neutral ground because it’s so close to the big ports and so much of Europe.”

“The cops are really hopeless [in Brussels],” he said. “Changing neighborhoods if you’re wanted for something is usually enough to get away, because there’s so many different police districts and the whole government is disorganized.”

And if it’s a serious charge, you can always jump off to Paris, Antwerp, Berlin, or any of a number of large cities easily accessible by train without showing any identification, he pointed out.

“I love Schengen — it’s the best thing to ever happen to businessmen like me,” he said of the European treaty that allows for virtually free travel between EU member states to the delight of businesses, tourists, and criminals alike. It made me laugh because a European cop recently had told me the same thing: He loves the visa-free travel of Schengen while on holiday, but at work it’s a constant obstacle to investigations.

The Balkan Wars left the former Yugoslavia and Albania awash with weapons from Cold War–era stockpiles, poorly monitored by corrupt law enforcement, he said. “To get guns, drugs, even people from the Balkans or Turkey into the EU, you’ve just got to get past maybe one border post before you’re free,” he said, describing the only difference between Austria and France as “a trucking matter.” Investigators of the Paris attacks — as well as the Charlie Hebdo attack — have said in both cases that the automatic weapons used came from the Balkans or Eastern Europe via Brussels.

Guns, heroin, and human trafficking follow the overland routes, but cocaine comes through Rotterdam and Antwerp, two of the huge ports nearby, according to both Eddy and police detectives. “You just get it off the ship,” Eddy said. “You always lose some [to police], so you just send more. Anything that gets through, you just charge more to make up what you lost.”

This breakdown of the European underworld was interesting, but didn’t seem to immediately connect to ISIS and how it recruits would-be militants. That was until Eddy started explaining the ethnic hierarchy of transnational gangsters in Western Europe.

According to him, the North Africans of the Netherlands, Belgium, and France are close to the bottom of the drug-trafficking networks — which tend to be run by Italians, British, and South Americans — particularly immigrants from Suriname in the Netherlands.

“These idiots who become terrorists, they’re just the small-time guys — maybe they’ll buy a car or something,” he said. “They sell each other some hash or coke, sell on the street to people, get arrested fast. Maybe that’s why they go to Syria … they’re not able to become rich gangsters.”

“Albanians are usually in the middle,” he joked. “We’re the enforcers because nobody fucks with Albanians.”

“These idiots who become terrorists, they’re just the small-time guys … They sell each other some hash or coke, sell on the street to people, get arrested fast. Maybe that’s why they go to Syria  they’re not able to become rich gangsters.”

I agreed to return to Brussels in the near future so he could prove how easy it would be to find an automatic weapon in Belgium. He quoted a price of between 3,000 and 4,000 euros (about $3,300 to $4,500), depending on the condition, model, and amount of ammunition and clips included.

He knew I wasn’t actually buying, but said it wouldn’t take much effort and that I could photograph the weapon if I wanted.

Ten days later, though, the bombs exploded in Brussels; shortly afterward, Eddy’s mobile phone stopped working. But his claims about the scattered nature of the Belgian police forces rang true with European law enforcement officials.

“Brussels has 19 administrative police districts that operate independently and three separate administrations for the government, NATO, and the EU,” said one of the Belgian cops involved in hunting Abdeslam. “And our government is deeply divided between the Dutch and French, so there are parallel bureaucracies for everything on the local level and dysfunction at the highest level. No wonder guys get missed.”

He was talking about the string of mistakes that police made monitoring the Brussels cell: One local official had been told the house where Abdeslam was finally caught had ties to the Paris attack, but failed to send the information up the chain of command. Another police officer visited the bomb factory — a central Brussels apartment where Abrini, Laachraoui, and Bakraoui caught a taxi to the airport on the day of the bombings — on at least two occasions because neighbors repeatedly reported a terrible chemical smell. But with at least 470 Belgians known to have gone to join ISIS in Syria, and hundreds more either on watch lists or indicted for various plots and cells, the Belgians were already overwhelmed and appeared unable to process this information.

This was also happening in a country that in 2011 set the world record for failure to form a government after an election, taking 541 days. The previous record of 249 days had been held by Iraq.

The jihadi problem, however, goes much further than the Belgian dysfunction, according to EU experts, spies, and law enforcement officials.

“Coordination by law enforcement when there’s a specific arrest warrant or manhunt is pretty good,” according to a high-ranking police official in an EU country, who works on terrorism and organized crime cases. (He is not authorized to speak openly about the matter to the press.) He said cooperation between EU member states also depends on the severity of the crime.

The problem, according to an official with the French Defense Ministry who has worked on a wide range of intelligence matters, from organized crime to nuclear proliferation to terrorism, is the age-old concern about agencies being reluctant to share information without a very specific reason.

“You’ll never get information to help you build a picture from anyone,” he said. “Sometimes you can’t get that from your own agency.”

The official, who is so restricted from speaking to the press that he wouldn’t let me identify myself as a journalist when I visited him in his office in a French military compound in Paris, described a situation in which major countries will share information to further their own goals.

“Liaisons sit in each other’s offices from the major powers, the UK, the Americans, the French,” he said. “If the Americans get specific intercepts about a plot in France, it’s easy to cooperate.”

What’s impossible for the EU to fix, he argued, is a system where anyone can move across Europe without showing identification, but the police and intelligence services remain nationally focused. And the current system, where centralized databases at Interpol and Europol are supposed to flag the movements of fugitives, relies on the individual member agencies to do the actual police work.

“Europol and Interpol are desks that file notices,” said one EU detective with a long history in organized crime and terror investigations. They serve as clearinghouses for warrants and notices, but local police often lack an incentive to check on warnings from other countries unless it applies to a case of their own.

And even as the EU dismantled much of what had previously seen as the hallmarks of a state — border and immigration controls, a national currency and reporting regulations, monitoring trade in goods and services — it didn’t replace these mechanisms with any unified oversight. The removal of all these regulatory obstacles have been a boon for all business and international activity, both legal and not.

Fixing it would require national institutions — law enforcement, the military, and intelligence services — to give up some local autonomy in favor of further integration, something both the current political dynamic, as seen by the UK’s vote to leave the EU, and the entrenched mentality of the security establishment make very unlikely.

“No intelligence service in its right mind will regularly share intelligence with 27 other countries, because then it stops being intelligence if everyone else knows about it,” the French official said.

“Share one-on-one for a specific case, like France and Belgium on these terrorists? Sure, now that people are dead. But remember the biggest problem here is we’re all still spying on each other inside the EU.”

 *****  Molenbeek, Belgium Timothy Fadek / Redux

On a quiet evening this spring, a few weeks after the bomb attacks in Brussels, I visited Molenbeek. I’d spent a lot of time in the area over the previous weeks, but always in the company of translators, activists, and other journalists, and I felt frustrated at the impossibility of getting a sense for the place during such a tense time.

Despite its common portrayal in the international media as the dirty heart of terrorism in Europe, Molenbeek is a tidy, working-class neighborhood. But weeks of military-style raids and arrests by SWAT teams had cast a chill over the area. That night, the streets were quiet.

But on one corner, I found two young men smoking pot. They seemed bemused by a journalist walking around by himself looking for people to chat with.

Zak, 21, was skinny and scruffy, bearded with baggy, oversize clothes and a backwards baseball cap. He said he was a stand-up comedian — and claimed to have a YouTube following — and, in the words of his buddy Brahim, “is an idiot.”

“We don’t call it Daesh here. We call it Dawlat. The State.” 

Short-haired and clean-shaven, Brahim was 23, muscular, handsome, and more serious than Zak. He had recently graduated from university as a civil engineer. They were both unemployed, and Brahim said his prospects didn’t look good unless he lucked out on a civil service exam.

Zak proceeded to roll another joint while Brahim questioned me about why I was reporting on ISIS and Molenbeek. I tried to explain in a general sense, but he interrupted me.

He pointed to the ground: “No! Why are you here? Here in Molenbeek?”

“Nobody will talk to you because they will resent that you want to talk to them about it,” he said, in a mix of English, French, and Arabic. “The young guys will think you’re a cop or CIA and the older people are just sick of it all. But why did you choose Molenbeek as a place to figure this out?”

He and Zak were stoned and sort of enjoying the conversation now, so I pointed out that around 80 young people from within one kilometer of where we were standing had left for Syria to join “Daesh,” using the Arabic acronym for ISIS, considered by the group’s members to be insulting.

“We don’t call it Daesh here,” Brahim answered, puffing on the joint. “We call it Dawlat,” directing me to use the proper Arabic term. “The State.” ●

CORRECTION

Abdelhamid Abaaoud and Chakib Akrouh died in a raid five days after the Paris attacks. An earlier version of this article erroneously said they died three days after the attacks.

The old Kremlin Relationships are New Again, Now Yemen

It came to my attention a few weeks ago that the United States was removing the 50+ stored nuclear weapons in Incirlik, from Turkey to Romania. Seems with some slight additional reporting that could be an accurate condition due to the unrest that persists since the failed coup of Erdogan. It is also reported that he is clearing some 38,000 prisoners from prisons to make room for those he has designated as participating in the coup. Meanwhile, the United States has dispatched a team to Ankara to talk over the demand by Erdogan to extradite Fethullah Gulen to Turkey after a complete docier was provided, complete with evidence that Gulen was part of the coup operations. (Note: Turkey is the only Islamic country that is a member of NATO). (Another note: Gulen is a friend and protected by Hillary)

While there are thousands of moving parts here with regard to Turkey, it is quite worthy to mention that after Turkey shot down a Russian fighter in the Turkman region the anger of Moscow grew towards Turkey, but that is no longer the case, in fact Putin and Erdogan have moved beyond history and have re-established collaboration and relations.

Meanwhile, now that Turkey is no longer and issue for Russia, it remains a big thorn for the United States and NATO. So, what is Russia doing now? The Kremlin is taking on more old relationships and making them new again. Beyond Syria, Venezuela, Cuba, Nicaragua, there is Africa and of course Iran and Yemen. What do you mean Yemen? Yes and all of these objectives are to take control of the Mediterranean, the Black Sea and of course NATO.

Yemen has been at the center of hostilities due to the Iranian backed Houthis where Saudi Arabia has worked towards control and a regime change there. It is also notable that Yemen was a top location for the CIA drone operations towards al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, AQAP, until Iran and then Yemen fell and the United States was forced to flee.

It was announced that Russia recently signed a memorandum of understanding with Iran to use an Iranian airbase to conduct airstrikes against Islamic State. This emerging new couple, Iran and Russia spells trouble ahead for the West including those countries friendly to the West.

Image result for russia iran joint airbase

Ex-president Saleh offers ‘all Yemen’s facilities’ to Russia

 Looking at this map carefully, not the maritime traffic with oil tankers which are always challenged by Iran as are navies.

In a TV interview today, Yemen’s ex-president, Ali Abdullah Saleh, appeared to invite Russian military intervention in the country’s conflict. He talked of reactivating old Yemeni agreements with the Soviet Union and offfered “all the facilities” of Yemen’s bases, ports and airports to Russia. Saleh seemed to be advocating something similar to what happened in Syria, where Russia and Iran joined the conflict on the Assad regime’s side under the guise of fighting terrorism. A video of the interview is here, with a transcript in Arabic here. Saleh, who was ousted from the presidency in 2012, is allied to the Houthis who currently control the Yemeni capital and large parts of the country, especially in the north. For more than a year Saudi-led forces, who back Saleh’s exiled successor, Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi, have been bombing Houthi-controlled areas of Yemen. Meanwhile the Houthis, who have some Iranian backing, have attacked Saudi territory in the border area.

Talks in Kuwait aimed at ending the war recently collapsed. Separately from the Houthi-Saleh-Hadi conflict there are frequent attacks in Yemen by Islamist militants. In the Russian TV interview, Saleh described Russia as “the closest kin to us”, adding that it has “a positive attitude” in the UN Security Council. Saleh continued: “We extend our hands to Russia. We have agreements with the Russian Federation which were with the Soviet Union. The legitimate heir to the Soviet Union is the Russian Federation, we are ready to activate these treaties and agreements that were between us and the Soviet Union. “We agree on a principle, which is the struggle against terrorism … We extend our hands and offer all the facililties, and the conventions and treaties … We offer them in our bases, in our airports and in our ports – ready to provide all facilities to the Russian Federation.”

There is Video of the $400 Million to Iran

But Trump was telling a fib when he said he saw it…he has not had any intelligence briefings yet and likely will not until the end of August. Meanwhile, the Iranians are going at the United States with all propaganda they can muster. John Kerry and the White House not only look like fools, they ARE fools.

Another question for those investigative journalist: Were the 7 Iranian spies that also included in this transaction on that same plane as the money?

Other facts:

The United States is buying 32 metric tons of Iranian heavy water, a key component for one kind of nuclear reactor, The Associated Press reported.

The purpose of the transaction is to help Iran meet the terms of last year’s nuclear deal under which it agreed to curb its atomic program in exchange for billions of dollars in sanctions relief, according to the news agency.

The State and Energy departments said a sales agreement would be signed Friday in Vienna by officials from the six countries that negotiated the nuclear deal.

The agreement calls for the Energy Department’s Isotope Program to purchase the heavy water from a subsidiary of the UN atomic watchdog, for about $8.6 million, officials said. They added the heavy water will be stored at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee and then resold on the commercial market for research purposes. More here.

Another nefarious fact:

In late May, Russian Envoy to International Organizations Vladimir Voronkov said that Russian nuclear agency Rosatom was considering the possibility of buying Iranian heavy water.

“Steps are to be finalized for sale of 40 tons of heavy-water reactor to Russia and the deal will be signed in the very near future,” Salehi said, as quoted by the IRNA news agency.

According to Salehi, deputy head of the organization Behrouz Kamalvandi may in the near future visit Moscow to discuss concluding the issue with the Russian side. There is also an option that a Russian delegation will arrive in Iran, he said.

According to the nuclear deal agreed last year, Iran must store no more than 130 tons of heavy water during the first year after signing the agreement. More here.

*****

The footage, which could not be independently verified, shows images of large stacks of hard currency and features claims that the Obama administration sent this money over as part of an effort to free several U.S. hostages. The White House vehemently denied these claims this week following new reports about the cash exchange.

BBC Persian reporter Hadi Nili posted the footage on Twitter, describing it as showing the “pallets of cash” and quoting officials as saying “this was just part of the ‘expensive price’ to release Americans.” More here from FreeBeacon.

Could Trump have been right? Propaganda film suggests Iran DID videotape cash-drop plane and photograph shipment of cash during January prisoner swap

  • February documentary that aired on Iranian state-run TV shows nighttime flight, pallet of cash matching prisoner-swap scenario reported this week
  • Donald Trump claimed three times this week that he had seen similar footage and that Iran had filmed the cash transfer to embarrass America
  • He walked back that claim Friday morning, saying he had only seen archival footage of a different plane delivering hostages safely to Geneva
  • He may have been right without knowing it: Propaganda broadcast shows the images and boasts the deal was great for Iran but terrible for the U.S.

DailyMail: Iranian state-run media in Tehran did indeed videotape the arrival of a January 17 flight carrying $400 million in cash from the United States – and the money itself – judging from a documentary that aired the following month in the Islamic republic.

Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump has been in a firestorm of controversy since first claiming on Wednesday to have seen ‘secret’ footage of money being offloaded from an aircraft.

He admitted Friday morning on Twitter what his campaign had said more than a day earlier, that he had seen ordinary archival footage of a different plane, carrying American hostages freed from Iran arriving in Geneva Switzerland after the money changed hands.

But it turns out he may have been right without knowing it.

Iranian state television broadcast this image of a shipping pallet stacked with cash in February as part of a propaganda film framing a January U.S. prisoner swap as a victory for Tehran
Iranian state television broadcast this image of a shipping pallet stacked with cash in February as part of a propaganda film framing a January U.S. prisoner swap as a victory for Tehran
The documentary described this plane as arriving in the dead of night with the money, exactly the scenario that Donald Trump was criticized for describing three times this week
The documentary described this plane as arriving in the dead of night with the money, exactly the scenario that Donald Trump was criticized for describing three times this week

The Iranian video was aired February 15 on the state-run Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting television network, as part of a documentary called ‘Rules of the Game.’

A narrator, speaking in Persian, describes a money-for-hostages transaction over video clips of a plane on an airport tarmac in the dead of night and a photo of a giant shipping pallet stacked with what appear to be banknotes.

The federal government shipped what many are calling a ransom payment in Euros and other non-U.S. currencies.

The copy of the documentary footage DailyMail.com obtained is not of high enough quality to determine which nation’s banknotes are depicted.

None of the footage is stamped with a date or time, making it impossible to know when it was shot.

And the broadcaster blurred out one portion of the screen, covering up something resting on top of the mountain of money.

But the documentary begins with a narration saying: ‘In the early morning hours of January 17, 2016 at Mehrabad Airport, $400 million in cash was transported to Iran on an airplane.’

The film describes the Obama administration’s prisoner swap and Iran’s cash windfall from Tehran’s point of view as ‘a win-lose deal that benefits the Islamic Republic of Iran and hurts the United States,’ according to two English-language translations DailyMail.com obtained.

 

Trump fell on his sword Friday on Twitter, conceding that he was describing a different plan when he said there was footage of the cash drop – an assertion that turned out to be right

Trump fell on his sword Friday on Twitter, conceding that he was describing a different plan when he said there was footage of the cash drop – an assertion that turned out to be right

It outlines what Iran’s mullahs promoted at the time as a one-sided transaction loaded with perks for Tehran.

‘The Islamic republic made an expensive offer to the equation: the release of seven Iranian prisoners in the United States, $1.7 billion, and the lifting of sanctions against 16 Iranians who were prosecuted by the U.S. legal system with the unjust excuse of sanctions violations,’ the narrator intones.

‘But this was not all the Iranians’ demands. Lifting sanctions against Sepah Bank was added to Iran’s list. All of this, in return for the release of only four American citizens: a win-lose deal that benefits the Islamic Republic of Iran and hurts the United States.’

Among the four freed Americans were Washington Post journalist Jason Rezaian, pastor Saeed Abedini and U.S. Marine Amir Hekmati.

The Trump campaign did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The White House was quick to insist on Thursday that the Obama administration had not paid for their release.

‘Let me be clear: The United States does not pay ransom, White House press secretary Josh Earnest said, questioning the motives of Republican who were ‘falsely accusing us of paying a ransom.

The propaganda film was shown a month after the January prisoner release in Iran but was unknown in the West until Friday. It described the swap as 'a win-lose deal that benefits the Islamic Republic of Iran and hurts the United States'

The propaganda film was shown a month after the January prisoner release in Iran but was unknown in the West until Friday. It described the swap as ‘a win-lose deal that benefits the Islamic Republic of Iran and hurts the United States’

Read more here from the DailyMail.