[The following is a 'rush job', so spelling and syntax are not what I would like them to be]
Previous post in the series is here.
First in the series is here.
So, just who *is* Monzer al-Kassar?
We get a look into his life in the larger work done by Antonius Johannes Gerhardus Tijhuis at Leiden University in the Netherlands by way of a paper he did on this subject: Transnational crime and the interface between legal and illegal actors. And in Chapter 3 - Individuals and Legitimate Organizations as Interface, he would examine the business of mixing up legal and illegal activities by a few individuals, and concentrate on Mr. Kassar along with Viktor Bout and Faoud Abbas. These three range from pretty evenly divided between the legal and illegal with Mr. Kassar, to the very little legal, but enough to give cover, in the case of Mr. Abbas.
From that chapter we get a brief overview of Mr. Kassar's life, from his early dealings in the 1970's with the Mafia and Terrorists as he served as intermediary for drugs and guns, using stolen vehicles, which got him pulled over in 1979 in Paris. Over that span he would work his way closer to a drug wholesaler and finally find himself in business in Morocco when the wholesaler was in jail there. The ever enterprising Mr. Kassar then would utilize the kidnap for ransom fever going on in Lebanon to help alleviate his problems by offering the French the opportunity to get some French hostages freed. A lovely snippet on the ability of Mr. Kassar to influence folks that should be arresting him is described with this:
The primary example here is Al Kassar who, for example, closed a deal with the French government. While being sentenced to eight years in Paris, he negotiated without any problem with the French authorities and several opportunities to arrest Al Kassar were ignored.So much for this 'rule of law' concept! Yes he could, indeed, influence people and he could help the French... if they would just ship some arms to Iran. Such a good deal! How could the CIA pass that up? Well, from what we see in the Iran/Contra business, it didn't.
Thus comes in Ollie North, Richard Secord and a lively crew of folks looking to purloin some weapons, get some cash, free some hostages and get arms to the Contras all in a few easy steps. They would set up a business they called the 'Enterprise' and it would work with an international arms dealer who had a direct line to Iran: Mr. Monzer al-Kassar. Mr. Kassar had moved offices to Poland so as to avail himself of Soviet bloc arms, which were a bit cheaper and easier to sell than Western ones. So the 'Enterprise' would look to get a ship to do the go between work, owned by a Portugese company: Defex.
So now a bit from Chapter 8 of the Walsh Report on Iran/Contra:
Phases V-VII of the Contra Arms Sales (March-June 1986)And a bit further on we get a look at some of the cash amounts involved:
Between February 27 and May 23, 1986, the Enterprise paid Defex Portugal about $860,000 for contra weapons. Weapons were delivered to Central America in March, April and May in three shipments. CSF books show profit distributions between April and June, numbered Phases V through VII, totaling $550,471. In addition, there was an unnumbered distribution of $37,277 on June 20, 1986, resulting from the Phase VII shipment.
The Undelivered Shipment and Distribution (July-September 1986)
In July 1986, the Enterprise paid Defex (Portugal) $2.6 million and $500,000 to another dealer, Monzer Al Kassar, for contra weapons. In late July, a shipment of arms left Portugal for Central America aboard the recently acquired Enterprise freighter, the Erria.8 According to Thomas Parlow, the Erria's Danish shipping agent, the freighter was carrying arms picked up in Poland and Portugal.9
8 Clines, Hakim and William Haskell, an associate of North, traveled to Copenhagen in April 1986 to purchase for approximately $320,000 the Erria, which the Enterprise had leased a year earlier for a weapons shipment to the contras. The ship was purchased by the Enterprise in the name of Dolmy Business Inc., a Panamanian shell company. Thomas Parlow became the Erria's Danish shipping agent. According to Parlow, Hakim would telephone Parlow to direct movement of the ship, and Parlow would communicate those directions to the ship's captain. (Parlow, FBI 302, 3/5/87, pp. 2-3.)
9 Ibid., p. 3.
As the Erria was nearing Bermuda, Parlow, acting on instructions from Hakim, ordered it to slow its speed and await further instructions. Clines then directed the ship to work its way slowly back to Portugal.10 When it arrived in Portugal it could not obtain permission to enter the port. In this mid- to late-August 1986 period, Secord ordered Clines to try to sell the cargo or dump it at sea, according to Parlow. The vessel headed for Spain, where it remained anchored for two weeks.
10 The ship apparently was ordered back to Europe because it was to be used in an impending U.S.-Israeli venture involving Iran.
As the Erria made its circuitous journey, the CIA through a series of commercial entities arranged to buy the weapons aboard. According to CIA officials, they did not learn the identity of either the owner of the ship or its cargo until January 1987, when a newspaper article named the Secord-Hakim Enterprise as the owner of the ship and the weapons.
The CIA paid $2.1 million for the arms shipment, including shipping and handling costs.11 According to the private arms dealer who bought the arms for the CIA, he paid $1.6 million for the weapons. Of that, the Enterprise received $1.2 million, and the remainder went to Parlow or Defex, who worked together to re-sell the weapons.
The Iran/Contra DiversionAnd, of course, Mr. Kassar was unavailable for testimony! Even more amazing is that he went from working for someone else to being his own operation just as this was going on. In exchange for doing this Mr. Tijhuis cites a report that Mr. Kassar would get a 'pass' by the US on his narcotics trafficking in the region, thus allowing him to continue getting benefit for the deal above and beyond arms payments.
Because of the commingling of Enterprise funds, it was not possible to determine precisely how much money was diverted from the Iran arms sales proceeds to the contras. After direct U.S. sales of arms to Iran began in February 1986, the amount of proceeds diverted to the contras that could have been proved at trial was $3.6 million. It probably was at least $1.1 million more.51
51 The $3.6 million diversion estimate does not include expenditures OIC could not provide evidence for at trial but were, in fact, contra-related, including: the purchase of a $200,000 Jetstar by the Enterprise for contra-related travel; a $500,000 weapons purchase from Monzer Al Kassar, who was not available to testify; and about $535,000 that was used to purchase, operate and insure the Danish freighter, the Erria, which was not used exclusively for contra operations.
Independent Counsel arrived at the diversion figure of $3.6 million by calculating the Enterprise's total contra-related expenses following the first direct U.S. shipment of arms to Iran in February 1986, less the amount of funds in Enterprise accounts specifically deposited on behalf of the contras. The Enterprise's contra-related expenses after February were conservatively estimated at $6.7 million. The amount deposited for the contras was $3.1 million. Thus, the amount that was clearly diverted from the arms sales was $3.6 million.
North, in his testimony, attributed to Nir and Ghorbanifar the idea for a diversion of arms sales funds to the contras. In the Poindexter trial, although uncertain, he fixed the date in December 1985 or January or February of 1986.52 As early as November 14, 1985, North's notebooks show that he discussed with Nir a plan to obtain the release of the hostages by payments to certain Middle Eastern factions. The questions they discussed included: ``How to pay for; how to raise $,'' and a possible solution was to set up a ``joint'' Israeli-U.S. ``covert op.'' According to the Israelis, North apparently told Israeli defense officials in a meeting in New York on December 6, 1985, that he intended to divert funds from the arms sales to the contras.53
That wouldn't be all. Far from it, Mr. Kassar would *also* be getting in good with BCCI and its ability to launder and transfer funds for illicit deals on a global basis. In one short year he would have an *in* with:
He would also be cited as a player in the BCCI report:
In the United Kingdom, a key window on BCCI's support of terrorism was an informant named Ghassan Qassem, the former manager of the Sloan Street branch of BCCI in London. Qassem had been given the accounts of Palestinian terrorist Abu Nidal at BCCI, and then proceeded, while at BCCI, to provide detailed information on the accounts to British and American intelligence, apparently as a paid informant, according to press accounts based on interviews with Qassem.(66)
As of 1986, the information obtained about Abu Nidal's use of BCCI was sufficiently detailed as to justify dissemination within the U.S. intelligence community.(67)
In July, 1987, as a result of the information provided by Qassem, a State Department report concerning Abu Nidal and Qassem, declassified in 1991 at the request of the Subcommittee, describes Abu Nidal's use of BCCI.
The ANO commercial network comprises several businesses created over the past seven years with the long-term goal of establishing legitimate trading enterprises in various countries, gaining experience in commercial trade, and making a profit for the group. . . The general manager of the commercial network and the principal agent in gray-arms transactions is Samir Hasan Najm al-Din (Samir Najmeddin). He has directed many of ANO's commercial activities, both licit and illicit, from his offices in the INTRACO building in Warsaw, Poland.. . . He has maintained a general account at a major West European Bank [BCCI in London] from which he transfers money to individual company accounts at local banks. He maintains joint control of each company's ban accounts, along with the company manager, and he is responsible for forwarding all major contracts to Sabri al-Banna for final approval.(68)
Following dissemination of this material by the U.S., the U.S. coordinated efforts to shut down the financing of the activities exposed in its targeting of Abu Nidal through BCCI-London, with some success.(69)
Other terrorist groups continued to make use of BCCI, including one "state sponsor of terrorism," and the Qassar brothers, Manzur and Ghassan, who have been associated with terrorism, arms trafficking, and narcotics trafficking in connection with the Government of Syria, and with the provision of East Bloc arms to the Nicaraguan contras in a transaction with the North/Secord enterprise paid for with funds from the secret U.S. arms sales to Iran.(70)
4. BCCI's relationships with convicted Iraqi arms dealer Sarkis Soghanalian, Syrian drug trafficker, terrorist, and arms trafficker Monzer Al-Kassar, and other major arms dealers. Sarkenalian was a principal seller of arms to Iraq. Monzer Al-Kassar has been implicated in terrorist bombings in connection with terrorist organizations such as the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine. Other arms dealers, including some who provided machine guns and trained Medellin cartel death squads, also used BCCI. Tracing their assets through the bank would likely lead to important information concerning international terrorist and arms trafficker networks.Yes, within the Top 5 of things that 'really needed to be looked at' from the BCCI report! And who would be Mr. Kassar's prime contact to get an arms shipment to Iran? Why, here is the late Mr. Cyrus Hashemi mentioned, who is cited as working out arms deals for Iran and banking with BCCI. Also, BCCI would be a major player with Mr. Sarkenalian to get weapons and goods to Iraq. What sort of career is it that takes you from 'get on your own or be put away' and in only a year to becoming a major player with illegal arms shipments from the USA and increased involvement with terrorist groups that you get nudged right into the Big Leagues of International Crime? Actually, a bit beyond that as the Achille Lauro attack is blatant Piracy upon a ship used by US Nationals and that attack is one of warfare. True Piracy in the old sense of it.
5. The use of BCCI by central figures in arms sales to Iran during the 1980's. The late Cyrus Hashemi, a key figure in allegations concerning an alleged deal involving the return of U.S. hostages from Iran in 1980, banked at BCCI London. His records have been withheld from disclosure to the Subcommittee by a British judge. Their release might aid in reaching judgments concerning Hashemi's activities in 1980, with the CIA under President Carter and allegedly with William Casey.
6. BCCI's activities with the Central Bank of Syria and with the Foreign Trade Mission of the Soviet Union in London. BCCI was used by both the Syrian and Soviet governments in the period in which each was involved in supporting activities hostile to the United States. Obtaining the records of those financial transactions would be critical to understanding what the Soviet Union under Brezhnev, Chernenko, and Andropov was doing in the West; and might document the nature and extent of Syria's support for international terrorism.
Now, as a major diversion for a bit, let me address this as it really and for true does need to be addressed: the major problem with transnational crime is that when it involves the subversion or diversion of goods from legitimate purposes to criminal or illegitimate warfare it is Piracy. Not terrorism nor ordinary crime. In my link above on Piracy I look at this question and have come to the conclusion that trying to treat something, that in former times was considered a warlike act, as a civil crime gets one stuck with terrorists and 'arms brokers' who actually don't own or pass on arms, but arrange deals. Under the old Piracy laws, 'arranging deals' was actual aid and support of Piracy and made those doing the arranging liable to be brought in as confederates of Pirates and get a few years in the slammer with some help from the Admiralty. This attack on commerce stuff really does need that as it is a good and hard definition of Piracy and those that actually engage in it can be brought in for war crimes. In this case the penalty is death. And those that aid Pirates that do not give themselves up peacefully? Uh-huh, that steps over the line, also, into the harsh 'end of the noose' or 'hung from the yardarm' deal. Probably too civilized for that today and lethal injection or death by Paris Hilton news would be the norm.
Ok, enough of the rant, back to Mr. Kassar, who would be acquitted in a *Spanish* court of Piracy. Not a US Admiralty court.
In the due course of things, Monzer al-Kassar would also be cited to see if he is in the Supernote business, and this comes from the testimony of Kenneth R. Timmerman before Congress on 27 FEB 1996:
Secret Service reluctance to cooperate with InterpolYes, you can't leave my Web of the supernote article far behind, as it also serves to look at the connectivity between Rogue Nations and terrorism. And with this it now ties Mr. Kassar to North Korea as a conduit for supernotes being used to purchase illegal equipment for Iraq. Counterfeit money stretching that budget to get that little bit extra!
Several European judicial and intelligence sources have complained privately to me of their efforts to elicit help from the U.S. Secret Service in tracking down the laundering networks for the supernotes in Europe.
One network several intelligence services were tracking was apparently set up by the Syrian businessman Monzer al Qassar, who has been called "the godfather of terrorism" because of his links to Abu Nidal and other Palestinian terrorist groups.
The Spanish authorities arrested Monzer al Qassar on June 2, 1992 on charges relating to the Achille Lauro terrorist attack, jailing him for two years. As they were preparing to release him for lack of evidence, the Spanish judge was called to Washington. The Secret Service was seeking his cooperation in a new investigation tying Monzer al Qassar to the supernotes. Monzer's brother Ghassan al Qassar, who was expelled from Argentina on a variety of charges including drug smuggling and money-laundering, was believed to be one of the main contacts for obtaining the counterfeit notes. Ghassan, in turn, was in contact with an Iraqi Consul in Vienna, Austria, who was also believed to be passing the supernotes to procure technology on the black market for Iraq's weapons programs. The bills have turned up all over Europe, but especially in Spain and Austria; and I am told that Interpol is increasingly frustrated at the lack of cooperation they have received from the Secret Service.
After an initial meeting in Washington with the Spanish judge in July 1994, the Secret Service went to Spain to pursue its own leads. According to my sources, the Spanish judge has complained that he is "still waiting" for the Secret Service to inform him of the result of its investigation tying Monzer al Qassar to the supernotes. His investigation into supernote laundering networks - which Spanish intelligence sources say are widespread in Spain - has been shelved because of the lack of cooperation from the Secret Service.
This does point up Mr. Kassar's involvement in Latin America and in more than a few other places that would expand his arms shipment horizons. Some of that is gone into via the PBS program Frontline that had a special on Mr. Kassar by Matthew Brunwasser. One of the first parts of interest is the Anatomy of a Deal Gone Bad:
On June 5, 1990, Monzer Al Kassar and his wife opened an account, number 1964, at the Audi Bank in Switzerland. Al Kassar and his wife used their real names and both signed the documents, highly unusual for a bank account that would later be used in an illegal arms deal. The initial purpose of the account is unknown. The bank records from this account and others would later become evidence used by a Swiss prosecutor to freeze Al Kassar's proceeds from the illegal sale of Polish arms to Croatia and Bosnia.The Polish Government was a bit on the incensed side over this as seen by documents at the Norweigan Initiative on Small Arms Transfers and their cache of documents on the small arms trade. It turns out that Mr. Kassar would be doing arms shipments to various groups and organizations from Poland (cited in this FBIS translation of Warsaw Rzeczpospolita in Polish 6 Jan 00 page A4) which would be more than just Croatia, but include:
Subsequent events provided the necessary ingredients for an embargo-breaking arms deal: a war, an attempt by the international community to stop it, and a broker able to work around it. Croatia and Slovenia declared themselves independent from Yugoslavia in June 1991. A bloody civil war ensued. The United Nations Security Council voted on September 25, 1991, to impose an arms embargo on Yugoslavia, whose constituent republics were not yet recognized by the international community as independent countries. Bosnia declared its independence in March 1992, which was followed by an even more bloody and complicated civil war.
Like many other states, the Swiss Federal Council adopted the arms ban -- U.N. Security Council Resolution number 713 -- on December 18, 1991, making the embargo Swiss law (RS 514.545). This later formed the basis for Swiss legal proceedings against Al Kassar. U.N. embargoes mean nothing unless they are adopted by the legislatures of individual U.N. member states and enforced by their respective legal systems.
Shortly thereafter, a Croatian couple, Snejana and Zeljko Mikulic, holders of an account at Die Erste Bank in Vienna, ordered $2,649,000 in bank transfers to the account of Bassam Abu Sharif, one of Yasser Arafat's closest advisors, at Arab Bank in Geneva. A Die Erste Bank document states that the transfers were for a shipment of sugar, powdered milk and tea to Croatia.
A few days later, Sharif began a series of transfers, ultimately totaling $2.3 million, to account number 1964 at Audi Bank, the account belonging to Monzer Al Kassar.
In turn, Al Kassar transferred $2,549,135 to the Luxembourg bank account of Cenrex, the Polish state arms company.
On March 10, 1992, a Honduras-registered ship, the Nadia, docked at Ceuta, Spain (a Spanish territory in Morocco) for supplies. When port officials examined the cargo documents, they found the papers in order. The 27 containers of arms and ammunition were being sent by Cenrex in Poland to the defense ministry of Yemen. After the ship was allowed to proceed, it headed not to Yemen but to Rijeka, Croatia, where it unloaded.
"Arms and ammunition were smuggled through the port in Gdynia to Latvia and Estonia where they were received by international criminal organizations and to the former Yugoslavia and Somalia, to regions where conflicts were going on and which were under an international embargo," Prosecutor Mariusz Marciniak and Captain Stanislaw Kaminski informed. With the help of trade companies legally operating in Poland, Latvia and Estonia, 24,600 TT pistols, 8,000 automatic pistols, 401 Kalashnikovs, 660 grenade launchers, 100 "Taurus" revolvers, sniper guns, 1,000 grenades, 9,000 mortar shells, and over 36 million pieces of gun and pistol ammunition were illegally exported. Invoices show the total value of the exported arms was above $4.5 million.Which is how, as described previously, we get to see Mr. Kassar having a picture taken with Farah Aideed's son in Somalia - he was an arms supplier to them. In just a few years he would typify the sales of grenade launchers, sniper rifles, grenades and mortar shells as "small arms sales". And here are the details of how such things as foodstuffs end up containing the nutrients of small arms via their fortifications with the essential minerals and explosives at sea:
The main organizer and coordinator of the undertaking was Lieutenant Colonel Jerzy D., delegated to work outside the Army. He went on to work for Cenrex from the Central Engineering Directorate of the Ministry of Foreign Economic Cooperation [MWGZ]. In the 1980's he was a commercial attache in Lebanon.That is an anatomy of an arms deal and how you get from a legitimate Nation to an illegitimate one. The Poles were not happy about this, once it was uncovered, as seen by this NISAT document and the necessity of having to do some Counter-Intellligence work and clean up their Intelligence Agency due to high level corruption suspected there. They did find officers in that organization guilty on illegal arms trafficking. Did I mention earlier that Mr. Kassar was involved with Iran/Contra using arms shipped from Poland? Ah, I did! Now, guess which Nation is cited in sending arms to Bosnia and other places in the Former Yugoslavia? Yes, I went over that in this article, and it is time for a 'blast from the past' of the non-explosive sort from Congressional Record: May 7, 1996 (Senate), DOCID:cr07my96-154, AMERICAN TROOPS IN BOSNIA:[Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX)]:
At the end of the 1980's Jerzy D. met international arms trade dealer Mezner Gaulion a.k.a. Monzer Al Kassar who presented himself as a representative of the defense ministries of Yemen and Algeria. The acquaintance led to the signing of contracts in 1992. The first transport was to go to Yemen. Al Kassar presented documents of the Democratic Peoples Republic of Yemen which had already not existed for two years at the time and signed an agreement. Instead of reaching Yemen, the ship laden with arms ended up in one of the states of the former Yugoslavia.
Via Latvia [subhead] After the successful operation, Gaulion a.k.a. Kassar wanted to broaden cooperation with Cenrex. No contract was signed. When Cenrex applied to the MWGZ for a license to export arms and ammunition, ministry officials expressed doubts regarding the documents of a nonexistent state. Meanwhile, arms purchased from the Ministry of National Defense and the Ministry of Internal Affairs were already in the Gdynia port and a ship was waiting to be loaded. Al Kassar had paid money into Cenrex accounts in Luxembourg. The clock was ticking.
Jerzy D. took advantage of his acquaintance with Colonel Janis D., a high-ranking official of the Latvian Defense Ministry. They agreed to sign a fictitious contract for supplies of arms from Poland for Latvia. Double documents were drawn up enabling the delivery of arms to a location specified by the real recipient.
A Cenrex employee sailed from Gdynia to Latvia. He presented Janis D. with documents that enabled shipping the arms from Latvia to Yemen. The ship immediately set sail from the Latvian port. The documents said it left for Yemen. In reality, the arms were loaded onto another ship off the Somalian coast.
Using the Latvian contract, Cenrex began independently supplying arms and ammunition to the embargoed Croatia. Jerzy D. could no longer count on the help of Gaulion a.k.a. Al Kassar who was arrested in Spain under charges of smuggling, attempted murder, kidnapping and other crimes he had committed as a member of terrorist organizations. Kassar's name surfaced, for example, in the course of the investigation into the hijacking of the Achille Lauro cruise ship in October 1985.
Now, Mr. President, in addition to the total abrogation of his word to the American people regarding when the troops would come home from Bosnia, we now learn that, in fact, while President Clinton was stopping us from lifting the arms embargo, he was allowing another country to provide arms in violation of the embargo. Was it a legitimate ally of the United States? No, Mr. President, it was not a legitimate ally of the United States that was allowed to violate the arms embargo that we in this Congress were trying to lift. No, it was an enemy of the United States, a terrorist country: Iran.Yes, in this lovely world of bipartisan inability to govern we now see *two* Presidents having enabled Mr. Kassar to trade arms and influence with Iran - Reagan Administration and the Iran/Contra scandal and the Clinton Administration in being unable to back up its rhetoric and actually HELP people. Both of those now look to involve Mr. Kassar in an active sense from Iran/Contra and a passive sense from the lackluster Clinton Administration. Actually, I am being too nice to the Clinton Administration and even *Congress* was harsher.
Despite widespread rumors that Iranian arms were being shipped to Bosnia in violation of the arms embargo, an embargo this administration said we must support, and despite senior officials' strong denials, we learn we were deceived. Here we have the quotes, Mr. President. On April 15, 1995, a State Department spokesman, Nicholas Burns, told the Los Angeles Times, "We do not endorse violations of U.N. embargo resolutions whatever. We are not violating those resolutions. We don't endorse anyone else who is violating them."
On June 16, 1995, Secretary of State Warren Christopher said, "I think you get some instant gratification from lifting the arms embargo. It is kind of an emotional luxury, but you have to ask yourself, what are the consequences of that?" As late as March of this year, President Clinton himself told Congress that "Iran continued to engage in activities that represent a threat to the national security, foreign policy, and economy of the United States."
Mr. President, despite all of those statements by senior administration officials and the President himself, we have learned in recent weeks that this was not the case at all. Just 3 weeks after the President's report to Congress on Iran, it has been reported that the administration had given its tacit approval of the shipment by Iran, one of America's most hostile adversaries, of weapons to the Bosnian Muslim government.
We are justified in concluding, Mr. President, that the Clinton administration policy on Bosnia has been cynical. What many of us were advocating for so long--arming the Bosnians and allowing them to defend themselves with legitimate sales of arms by people who cared about the people--was, in fact, being opposed by the administration by day, but by night secret arms shipments from Iran were moving forward with the administration's blessing.
Now, Mr. President, we are faced with similar cynicism regarding the deployment of American troops. Those troops are there precisely because the administration refused the suggestions by Senator Dole and others in the Senate that arming the Bosnians and letting them fight for themselves was the best way to go. Instead, the administration adopted a half-a-loaf policy of covert arms shipments from Iran, which was too little, too late, from the wrong source.
As with arm sales to Bosnia, the American people have been deceived by the Clinton administration on the question of withdrawing American troops from Bosnia. Very simply, the President made a commitment to the American people, and he is now saying he will not honor that commitment.
As seen a bit further into things we get the following from Sen. Larry Craig, (R-ID):
Let me read two quotes that I think speak volumes about what our President has caught himself in--that is, doublespeak. Mr. President, today you are not telling the American people the truth. For the last several months, you have been caught in a very difficult and very deceptive game of doublespeak.There, that should get the bipartisan cluebat a good workout to the Left and Right! Mr. Kassar took advantage of BOTH by actively helping along the Iran/Contra deal and then actively involving himself in illegal arms shipments with help, it appears, of Iranian funding in the Balkans. Which, incidentally, has bought them continued work in the Balkans via Mosques and organizations training there, plus a bit of recruitment, too.
Your representative, Richard Holbrooke, who immediate repudiated the Dayton peace accord was quoted on May 3 in a Reuters article saying:"I will state flatly for the record that this policy was correct--"He is referring to allowing the Iranians to move arms into the former Yugoslavia."and that if it hadn't taken place, the Bosnian Muslims would not have survived and we would not have gotten to Dayton."That is an absolute opposite from what our President has been telling us. Mr. President, that is double speak.
The next quote from Richard Holbrooke:"We knew that the Iranians would try to use the aid to buy political influence. It was a calculated policy based on the feeling that you had to choose between a lot of bad choices, and the choice that was chosen kept the Sarajevo government alive. But it left a problem--were the Iranians excessively influential on the ground?"Mr. President, President Clinton once again was caught in double speak. This Congress gave our President an option, a viable, responsible, well-thought-out option, to allow the arms embargo to be lifted so that parity could be built on both sides. He chose not to do that. He chose to openly and publicly deceive the American people.
As I mentioned, a main part of the debate on the crisis in the former Yugoslavia has involved the arms embargo, first imposed against the Yugoslavian Government in 1991.
Information continues to surface, showing that while the Congress was openly debating the lifting of the arms embargo, the administration was giving a green light to Iran, allowing them to circumvent the arms embargo.
Richard Holbrooke, the administration's representative who helped to mediate the Dayton Peace Accord, was quoted in a May 3, 1996, Reuters article saying:"I will state flatly for the record that this policy was correct and that if it hadn't taken place, the Bosnian Muslims would not have survived and we would not have gotten to Dayton."Mr. President, I would agree with the comment made by Mr. Holbrooke. Allowing Iran to circumvent the arms embargo was not this administration's only choice--it was certainly not a correct choice. The Congress, just last year, provided President Clinton a viable alternative by the passage of S. 21, legislation that would have unilaterally lifted the U.N. arms embargo illegally enforced against Bosnia.
There was ample reason to question the enforcement of the 1991 embargo against Bosnia. The original embargo was not imposed on Bosnia, because it did not exist in 1991. Rather, it was imposed on Yugoslavia. In addition, enforcement of this embargo could arguably violate Bosnia's right to self-defense under article 51 of the U.N. charter.
The legal, unilateral lifting of the arms embargo that was called for in S. 21, would have allowed rough parity to exist in this conflict.
The President chose to veto S. 21, citing concerns that it would be breaking from an agreement with our allies, and diminish our credibility with Europe.
Mr. President, the only credibility that has been diminished here has been through the administration's efforts to allow one of the strongest supporters of terrorism around the world, Iran, to violate the arms embargo and gain a foothold in Europe.
In addition, Iran only provided light weaponry to the Bosnian's, which was fine for providing a little protection. However, it was not enough to provide the needed shift in the strategic military balance, altering Serbia's enormous advantage in the conflict. Therefore, even after this evasion of the arms embargo had begun, thousands of Bosnians were still being killed, and the Serbian forces continued to capture more territory.
Mr. President, these elections will not occur until September at the earliest. It is, therefore, likely that our troops will not be withdrawn until January 1997.
Mr. President, Richard Holbrooke made another assertion about the administration's decision in the May 3 reuters article, with respect to the risks of dealing with Iran.We knew that the Iranians would try to use the aid to buy political influence. It was a calculated policy based on the feeling that you had to choose between a lot of bad choices, and the choice that was chosen kept the Sarajevo Government alive. But, it left a problem--were the Iranians excessively influential on the ground?The article continues with Mr. Holbrooke claiming that this problem was adequately dealt with through the negotiations of the Dayton accord, by including in the agreement that all foreign forces would have to leave the country. This is precisely one of the problems that our troops have had to face: the removal of foreign forces including Iranian forces.
In addition, it is my understanding that this arms transfer operation was allowed to continue until January of this year--after our troops were beginning to be deployed as peacekeepers in Bosnia.
In closing, the Iranian presence that the Clinton administration helped to promote is now actively threatening the Dayton accord, the American and NATO peacekeepers seeking to enforce it, and the military viability and democratic character of Bosnia itself.
Mr. President, this situation needs to be addressed, and our troops need to be brought home.
I thank my colleague from Texas for taking out this special order. I hope the select committee in the House will thoroughly investigate what this President is failing to do in foreign policy.
Further afield from the Balkans, Yemen, Somalia, Iran, Lebanon, Poland and the Eastern European Mafias, we would see that Mr. Kassar was involved with President Carlos Menem and a prosecutor in Argentina. The good folks at NISAT have an article on just that from 31 JAN 2001 - The Riddle of the Argentine Ring:
An ex-terrorist who became a businessman in Argentina, president Carlos Menem and a prosecutor have all been linked to an arms trafficking ring. Their money is stashed away in Switzerland.There you have multiple monetary pass-throughs, accounts, high level corruption and siphoning off of profits of illicit arms deals and who is there? Mr. Kassar! But he was not *only* dealing with Argentina, Ecuador, Croatia and corrupt authorities. And, via NISAT, the Argentinians would seek to pull Mr. Kassar in, and try to hold him accountable.
For nearly 10 years, the Swiss authorities have been investigating a Syrian national, Monzer Al Kasser, a 55-year-old who the CIA considers one of the world's most dangerous terrorists and an arms trafficker. The American agency believes he helped organize the hj-jacking of the Achille Lauro luxury liner. Last year a court in Geneva managed to freeze $3.3 million of his money that had been deposited in the Audi Bank and allegedly came from the sale of Polish arms to Croatia and Bosnia. The arms deal, which flouted the international embargo slapped on former Yugoslavia, bore a resemblance to another weapons traffic between Argentina and Croatia, in which former Argentine president Carlos Menem has been implicated. Two South American journalists, the Argentine Juan Gasparini and Rodrigo de Castro from Chile, traced links between Al Kasser and Menem (whose parents also came from Syria) in a book La Delgada Linea Blanca (the Thin White Line) that appeared at the end of 2000.
The book also cast light on the role played by a third person, Argentina's current chief prosecutor, Nicolas Bancerra, who is suspected of having helped Al Kassar acquire Argentine nationality. The prosecutor in question is reported to have an account at the Credit Suisse bank in Zurich under the code-named Naranja. Police investigations have recently confirmed a number of allegations in the book. Two accounts linked to Menem and containing $10 million have been frozen in Geneva, and examining magistrate Paul Perraudin has just begun building a case. Elsewhere, Argentina has sent two requests for legal assistance to the Swiss authorities concerning Alberto Kohan, former secretary general of Argentina's presidential office when Menem was in power. He is accused of making illicit gains.
Other Argentine personalities are targeted in the inquiry into the arms traffic to Croatia in 1991 but also to Ecuador in 1995. The trade, involving 6,500 tons of weapons, are said to have been billed $100 million by Argentina's national armaments firm Fabricaciones Militares. It only got $40 million. Who was the middle-man in the transactions?
Now that Frontline story also covers this period of the early 1990's to his money release in 2003, and they see what was going on then:
In 1992, Spain arrested Al Kassar on charges of piracy and providing the arms to the Abu Abbas-led PLF terrorists who hijacked the Achille Lauro cruise ship and murdered American Leon Klinghoffer. Western intelligence agencies concluded that Al Kassar flew Abbas to safety aboard one of his private planes after the hijackers surrendered. One prosecution witness, Ahmed Al Assadi, while spending time in Vercelli prison for participating in the hijacking, changed his story and refused to go to Spain to identify Al Kassar as the person who supplied the hijackers' weapons. After Al Kassar's arrest, another accuser, Ismail Jalid, fell to his death from a fifth-story window in Marbella, Spain, in what the coroner called "an alcoholic coma." During the 1995 trial, in a highly publicized standoff with police, a third witness's children were kidnapped by Colombian drug traffickers shortly before he testified. The witness blamed Al Kassar, who denied involvement and stated, "I have nothing to do with the kidnapping and I hope that it is over as soon as possible. Children are sacred for Arabs. No one, not even your worst enemy, deserves this." Al Kassar was later acquitted of all charges.Which is probably far more detail than a person can deal with, really, but does put forth how a mild mannered international terrorist and illegal arms dealer and drug trafficker can 'work the system' to get desired results.
While building the case, Spain requested that Switzerland seize Al Kassar's bank accounts. Swiss officials then opened their own preliminary inquiry into money laundering, lack of vigilance in financial operations, and fraudulent documents and foreign certificates. Following this inquiry, Swiss authorities began to investigate Al Kassar's arms sales using Swiss banks.
Questioned on December 9, 1993, by Swiss prosecutors, Al Kassar explained that he was a diplomatic representative of Yemen in Poland and therefore could not answer questions about government-to-government affairs. A search of Al Kassar's Spanish address revealed documents confirming his relationship to the Croatian Zeljko Mikulic and containing the codes used for the ship's contents: "Tea" meant TT pistols (Tula-Tokarev pistols, developed in the U.S.S.R. in the 1930s and subsequently manufactured by other Eastern Bloc countries), and "tea bags" meant bullets.
Bassam Abu Sharif was questioned by Swiss officials while passing through Geneva in 1994. He claimed that he had only met Al Kassar once in 1979 and twice thereafter. He explained that he had been asked by the Yemeni government to use his bank account to transfer money for an arms sale organized by the Yemeni ministry of defense to buy arms for Bosnia and Croatia. He said that he learned only later that Al Kassar had organized the sale.
"If Yemen does a deal with Bosnia and Croatia, how can I control it?" asked Al Kassar, dismissing accusations that he is an embargo-busting arms dealer. Under existing legal controls, his question is reasonable.
The case is the first of its kind in Switzerland and is expected to set a precedent. The arms did not touch Swiss territory and did not involve Swiss citizens or the country in any way other than through its banking system. Switzerland is not directly affected by the small-arms trade but has an interest in maintaining the respectability of its banking system. Such cases, as well as that of Leonid Minin ,an Israeli citizen arrested in Italy for selling Ukrainian weapons to Liberia and Sierra Leone, are pushing existing legislation in new directions in an attempt to discourage the illegal arms trade.
Al Kassar has lost successive court appeals and has one final chance to have his $2.3 million returned in an appeal to a Swiss federal court.
But we aren't done with Mr. Kassar in the early 1990's! Not by any means, as the folks at the Middle East Intelligence Bulletin have an article on New Report Links Syria to 1992 Bombing of Israeli Embassy in Argentina by Blanca Madani from MAR 2000:
A report recently compiled by Acción por la República, an Argentine political party headed by former minister Domingo Cavallo, provides new evidence of Syrian complicity in the 1992 bombing of the Israeli embassy in Buenos Aires. The bombing on March 17, 1992 killed 29 people and wounded more than 200. The embassy attack was followed by a second bombing on July 18, 1994 which destroyed the AMIA building in Buenos Aires, which housed several Argentine Jewish organizations, killing 86 people and wounding several hundred.Yes, and those bombings have been linked to Hezbollah, which is a joing military/intelligence Foreign Legion of Iran with direct aid and help from Syria. Note that in this bit of trade terrorism is done in exchange for missiles and nuclear ability, something that Syria has been after since the early 1980's. I cover the Syrian WMD infrastructure and attempts to hide same in a series of articles, including: Finding the mentioned but not pointed out, Palmyra and Homs, and a Basic WMD list plus some other facilities.
Shortly after the bombing, a group calling itself Islamic Jihad claimed responsibility and the investigation soon focused on Iranian complicity. In May 1998, the Argentine government announced that it had "convincing proof" of Iranian involvement in the bombing and expelled seven Iranian diplomats from the country. This followed the detention in Germany of Moshen Rabbani, who had served as Cultural Attache in the Iranian Embassy in Argentina until December of 1997. Rabbani was alleged to have assisted in planning the bombings along with four Iranian spies who entered the country from the Paraguayan border town of Ciudad del Este, a center of Hezbollah activity in the region. According to reports in the Argentine press, intercepted telephone conversations from the Iranian Embassy and testimony from Ismanian Khosrow, one of the detained Iranians, corroborated Iranian involvement. However, the investigation has since stalled and no action has been taken to prosecute any of the suspects.
"Days after the eight anniversary of the attack on the Embassy of Israel and almost six years since the attack on AMIA, little to almost nothing has advanced in the investigations of the cause of these actions," the report states. "Various groups . . . have systematically denounced the irregularities during the judicial process, the manipulation and disappearance of evidence, going so far as to petition international entities, such as the Inter-American Commission of Human Rights, to denounce the attitude adopted by the previous administration with respect to the development of events."
"There is no explanation, either from the perspective of the proceedings, or from that of common sense, to reject with such vehemence, investigative trails that could have helped clarify these attacks. Nevertheless, the previous government has flatly denied all reference to what popularly came to be called the 'Syrian trail of the attacks'."
This report hypothesizes a "Syrian connection" to the bombing of the Israeli embassy and the AMIA building, mainly through the presence and suspicious activities of a Syrian, Monzer al-Kazzar and an Argentine, Alfredo Yabran, and their link to then presidential candidate Carlos Menem's trip to Syria in 1988 and his promises concerning the Condor II missile and the installation of nuclear reactors in return for campaign funding. The report accuses investigators of a cover-up, noting that any possibility that sectors of the Syrian government or its surrogates could have been involved in the preparation or execution of the bombings have been ignored.
According to the report, taped testimony that tied certain people with the main suspects disappeared due to the negligence of the security services. The involvement of foreigners intimately associated with the previous government has been ignored, and they have been freed of suspicions "thanks to the lies spilled by civil employees of the government." These manipulations were to be expected since "all those investigated and soon rejected suspects were related, in one way or another, intimately with sectors of the previous government, including ex-president Carlos Menem himself." Suspicious activity by a number of Syrians are described in the report, including Mohamed Alem, Narman al-Hennawi, Ghassam al-Zein, Hassan Iasin Satin, Ali Chedade al-Hassan, Yalal Nacrach, Jacinto Kanoore Edul, Nassif Haddad, Javier Haddad and Monzer al-Kassar.
While there had been a successful attempt during the years since the attack to show that the Iranian track was antagonistic to the Syrian one, the Argentine group believes that both tracks "not only are not antagonistic to each other, but are interrelated with each other."
"The intent to show their antagonism is due, above all, to a real ignorance of the geopolitical alliances that were established in the Middle East, the deep relations that both sides maintain, the communion of interests, and, mostly, the clear objective to want to deviate the attention of public opinion from any indication that will involve the former government with suspects of the attacks, knowing, beforehand, the international scandal that this signifies."
These common interests between Iran and Syria are due to agreements of economic cooperation and military and intelligence exchange developing toward a common military. "Their union is due basically to the historical dispute that maintains as their most staunch enemy, Iraq, and the interest of Syrian president Hafez al-Assad to block all political development of a fundamentalist Islamic movement in his country, which is governed by an Alawite minority."
The intention of "Menemism," as the report calls it, to hide the truth of the events surrounding the attacks, "has its origin in the very history of the last ten years, and especially in the necessity of the illegal financing of the political campaign of 1989 and the dangerous unfulfilled promises to specific Arab countries for such an objective."
More from the MEIB article:
The former government of Menem made promises and then failed to fulfill the promises to these Middle Eastern countries. What it signified to Syria and the rest of the countries, besides not obtaining this military technology (it was perceived that the Condor II was superior to Scud or Badr 2000, a missile similar to the Condor) was the loss of millions of dollars. It is stipulated that more than $100 million was invested "officially" by the various countries involved in the project. Thus, the report concludes that "undoubtedly, such motives are more than sufficient to realize an attack with the characteristics of what occurred against AMIA and the Israeli Embassy. At least, they are more feasible than an action by Islamic fundamentalist terrorists who, because of their hatred of the Jews, attack their mutual headquarters and the diplomatic headquarters, for no other reason than the progress of the peace negotiations between Israel and Palestine."Syria has a continued quest for Intermediate Range Ballistic Missiles having purchased advanced designs from North Korea in the form of NoDong II missiles, plus some manufacturing capability. And who is there to help this entire project along? Yes, Mr. Kassar. An organization that he imported with the direct point of establishing itself in Argentina at high levels, creating a 'neutral zone' that authorities could not deal with and then looking outwards to spread influence, money and terror, plus advanced weapons designs and nuclear capability to Syria and Iran. Funded from Lebanon by his own companies, both trade and financial, enabling the shipment of arms to a local group that would then carry out terrorist attacks.
In 1988, Carlos Menem, at that time a candidate to the presidency for the Justiacilista (Justice) Party, made his first trip to the Arab Republic of Syria. It was a personal trip that "rapidly changed" to an official one due to the interest shown by Assad's government toward the presence of someone who could be the future president of a South American country. According to an interview by Oscar Spinosa Melo, a "Menemist" ex-ambassador, Menem met the Syrian vice-president, Abdul Halim Khaddam, one of the highest officials involved in the negotiations with Israel and who controls, together with the president's brother, Rifat al-Assad, the planting of (opium) poppy and hashish in Lebanon, and is also responsible for the Syrian intelligence forces. During these meetings between Melo and Assad, and later with Khaddam, Menem promised to deliver to Syria the Condor II missile and cooperate with the nuclear development of that country (including the assistance of Argentine experts in the development of such technology) in exchange for money to finance his presidential campaign.
The Syrians not only chose to go with the nuclear reactor in return for the money requested, but in 1992, one month before the attack on Israel, Syria and Iran signed a bilateral agreement for nuclear cooperation. Incidentally, in 1991, Argentina suspended the installation of the nuclear reactor in Syria and dismantled the Condor II missile project due to pressure from the United States, Israel, and then minister Domingo Cavallo, according to the then American chief of the secret service. Iran decided to invest two billion dollars during the course of four years, while Syria would apportion ten billion dollars during the same period.
Although there is no documented proof that the abandonment of the nuclear reactor project by Argentina is related to the strategic pact signed by Iran and Syria, the report notes that "it is highly suggestive," that at Menem's breach of pact, Syria was forced to buy an inferior Chinese reactor. Also "suggestive" is a report presented to the House of Representatives by the chief of the CIA, which reveals that there existed indications that Iran had acquired, with the agreement, Scud missiles, product of the operation's failure to acquire the Condor II. The report adds that: "Absolutely all military analysts agree in pointing out that the Condor II was technologically more advanced than Scud, especially in its navigational system."
The relationship of al-Kassar with the Condor II was established, through various intelligence documents of the Ministry of Defense while this ministry was headed by the late Raul Borras, by the presence of arms trafficking in Falda del Carmen in 1985, headquarters of the Condor operations, and also by his contacts with the Air Force, especially with the Crespo and Julia squadrons. Nevertheless, one of the "most suggestive" details is the presence of Alfredo Yabran during the initial project and subsequent development. There is no proof for such affirmation, but the report notes there is cause to suspect the relations maintained with Miguel Vicente Guerrero, the brain behind the Condor II project, his relations with the Air Force, which were such as to arise suspicions that he was an intelligence official in said organization, and mostly his control over the fiscal deposits and transfer of money when Ibrahim al-Ibrahim exercised his influence in the Customs of Ezeiza.
In the petition filed against al-Kassar, Public Prosecutor Rivoli pointed out that the unfulfilled promises by al-Kassar (to invest millions of dollars in the country) were for the purpose of realizing activities, publicly acknowledged, such as the sale of armaments. While al-Kassar was settling himself in Argentina under the protection of the former government (he was able to obtain an Argentine passport in "record time"), Ibrahim al-Ibrahim was installing himself in the Customs of Ezeiza, and Yabran was strengthening his power over the fiscal deposits, the post office, and the transfer of wealth. Separate investigations affirmed that the establishment of the trio in "neuralgic sectors of power" facilitated the creation of a "real parallel customs" or "free zone" from where all types of merchandise entered, circulated, and exited without any control. Thus the suspicions that part of the technological secrets of the Condor II left through Customs and that the "exogenous" material that blew the embassy of Israel entered.
Incidentally, it was in 1991 that the illegal sales of arms to Croatia and Ecuador began. A witness, whose identity has not been disclosed and who presumably belonged to the organization led by al-Kassar, declared before the Swiss judge that the Syrian arms trafficker was the intermediary between the Argentine government and Croatian President Tujdman for the resulting arms into Argentina. The witness, of Spanish origin, affirmed that the cargo was destined for Croatia, moving through the Spanish port of Malaga.
Al-Kassar is also linked with the presidential nephew, Yalal Nacrach, known as the "Hezbollah " of Menemism. Yalal appears tied to the arms cause, among others, via the deposits in the famous account of Daforel on the part of the Eltham Trading investment fund with the investigations of the scandal of the sale of arms. Four hundred thousand dollars was deposited in the Daforel account, which Palleros earmarked as the payment of a bribery to a "high-level industrialist tied to the power."
Another element which the report indicates links al-Kassar with the Argentine arms traffic is an Ecuadorian government document, classified as "top secret," published by the Ecuadorian daily Posdata on September 11, 1998, which states that the intermediaries for the arms operation were al-Kassar and Jean Lasnaud. Most importantly were the suspicious relations that maintained ties between the arms operation and some of the suspects in the attack on AMIA.
According to Anserment's investigation, the Sentex was bought in a Spanish factory by Cenrex Trading Corporation, LTD of Varsovia. The prosecutor was able to establish that the owner of the firm was none other than Monzer al-Kassar, under the alias of "Monzer Galioun." His investigation also showed that the material, which had been destined for the Democratic Republic of Yemen, was never shipped. He also pointed out that part of the cargo of the triangulated Sentex was sent to Syria, and from there, left for Buenos Aires in 1991, a few months before the attack on the embassy.
According to the majority of those who investigated the attack on the embassy (but not all), the explosion resulted from a Ford F-100 truck, which had been rented by a person with false identity, using the alias "Elias Griveiro Da Luz." This person paid $21,000 for the truck, 50 percent more than its value on the market. According to the report, it can be established that the money used to pay for the truck originated at a house of currency exchange in the Lebanese city of Biblos, a subsidiary of a larger house of exchange, the "Society of Change in Beirut," which was the property of al-Kassar.
The Syrian arms trafficker pointed out to the daily, Clarin, and later in a broadcast on "Hora Clave" that he had "abandoned the sale of arms and had dedicated himself to construction and the managing of the most important exchange house in Beirut," which, by chance, was none other than the Society of Change in Beirut, the most important in the Lebanese capital. The Justice department did not bother to investigate if the $21,000 originated from the holding company "Al Khaled Kassar," with headquarters in Damascus and immense interests in Lebanon. According to journalists, the holding company belonged to Ahmed Jibril, leader of the pro-Syrian movement, the Palestine-Comando Special Popular Liberation Front, to Rifaat Assad, brother of the Syrian president, and al-Kassar.
The Court also did not investigate the movement of Customs between the end of 1991 and the beginning of 1992, which the reporting opposition group had demanded, despite the fact that organizations such as the CIA, DEA, and others had denounced Ezeiza, which was directed by al-Ibrahim.
These would cause problems in international circles, to be sure, but he was also causing problems for the Imperial Consolidated Group and having an association with... yes... Osama bin Laden. This from a Find Article cache of The Independent on 21 JAN 2001:
A BRITISH finance company is to take legal action against a Spanish newspaper that has accused it of having links with the Islamic terrorist Osama bin Laden.No, not so ridiculous as this and other scandals would take Imperial down. To the point where the website that is left is a series of documents on how Imperial Consolidated Group defrauded its investors, and has been shut down. And later, Mr. Kassar would have his Swiss accounts unfrozen in 2003.
The claim follows a dispute between the Imperial Consolidated Group, which has over 28,000 customers in the UK, and its former business partner, the Syrian multi-millionaire arms-dealer Monzer al Kassar, who is based in Spain.
Imperial Consolidated says that Mr al Kassar is behind the story, which appeared on Monday in the Madrid newspaper El Mundo. Imperial Consolidated has dismissed as "nonsense" the allegations that the Imperial Consolidated Group, which operates from the site of the former RAF Binbrook base in Lincolnshire, has contacts with Mr bin Laden.
The paper suggested that the approach to Mr al Kassar was a front to obtain arms for Mr bin Laden, who is wanted in the United States for orchestrating the bombing of two embassies in Africa in 1998.
Imperial Consolidated's chairman, Lincoln Fraser, told the Independent on Sunday: "The accusation made in the Spanish press that Imperial Consolidated is somehow controlled and working on behalf of Osama bin Laden for the purpose of procuring arms is fundamentally absurd. The idea that Osama bin Laden would utilise Imperial Consolidated in order to do business with Monzer al Kassar is similarly ridiculous."
Founded in 1994, Imperial Consolidated is a UK-based financial group with subsidiaries in 11 countries, mostly offshore. It started as a debt- collecting agency. But in Britain it now employs more than 200 people.
According to the Miami-based Offshore Alert newsletter, an Imperial Consolidated subsidiary in the Bahamas launched the HINT Mastercard early last year. But within a few months the card was withdrawn. Last week it was announced that the group is now leaving the Bahamas.
Mr al Kassar, 55, has been involved in controversial arms deals spanning more than 20 years. El Mundo says Mr al Kassar received Imperial Consolidated bosses, including Mr Fraser, in his Marbella mansion last September and signed a contract to exploit a gold mine in the Argentine province of Tucuman. Mr al Kassar received $4m (pounds 2.7m) that Mr Fraser arranged on the spot via his mobile phone.
Mr al Kassar was involved in the Iran-contra affair, where he received $1.5m in 1985 and 1986 to buy arms for the Nicaraguan contras, according to a ledger released by the US congressional committee of inquiry into the scandal.
Oliver North's private arms procurement operation is reported to have bought from Mr al Kassar 158 tons of assault rifles and ammunition.
Mr al Kassar now has Spanish residency and lives in a marble palace in Marbella. Judge Baltazar Garzon, the scourge of former Chilean president General Pinochet, investigated him in connection with various drugs and terrorism allegations, notably the death of Leon Klinghoffer on the Achille Lauro in 1985.
Mr al Kassar was held in custody from 1992 for more than a year, then freed on payment of pounds 10m bail, before Spain's national court acquitted him in 1995 of charges of piracy resulting in death.
And that brings us up to Madrid and the 3/11 bombings. For that I will let Winds of Change's Joe Aguilar look at part of that plot and how it involved Monzer al-Kassar:
Well, we are approaching the culmination of this article, the Schwerpunkt, the point where the main forces of the investigators of 3/11 and the ones that want it covered-up are heading for a perhaps decisive confrontation. At the centre of it, there is a man of Syrian origin, a National Police officer named Ayman Maussili Kalaji.Not what you expected, was it? Kassar has implication with this report and with the one from my previous article, where Barcepundit gives a 2005 review of events:
Kalaji arrived to Spain in 1980 as a political refugee, fleeing from the Civil War in Syria. He had served in the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine (FDLP) in Lebanon, and it appears that he reached the rank of second commander of a missile base there. He also took the anti-government side in Syria, during that country's repression of the Muslim Brotherhood, resulting in Kalaji knocking on Spanish Immigration's door in order to keep his head on his shoulders. What may be more interesting to us is that as a bright teenage, he had been well trained in terrorist techniques, including electronics, and intelligence operations, and might even have been trained in the Soviet Union.
Regarding his experience, he began to collaborate with the Spanish security forces. Among other duties, he controlled the communications of Monzer Al Kassar, an arms trafficker that supplied to Palestine terrorists the weapons used in the assault of the Achille Lauro. Al Kassar bought Spanish protection against any awkward Israeli attention by selling two SA-7 portable antiaircraft missiles equipped with a transmitter to ETA. He was also allegedly a friend of Secretary of the Interior Rafael Vera. Later, in 1989, Kalaji worked in an operation to arrest a Hizbullah cell in Valencia, the year in which he was finally admitted to the National Police corps.
What is his relation with the 3/11 plot? Well, he owns a mobile phone store where the mobile phones allegedly used in those attacks were unlocked, (manipulated their software so they can use SIM cards from any company) as he himself has recognized. However, that is not all; the Civil Guard unit that is investigating the plot sent a communication to Judge Del Olmo in which, due to (a) the short time frame (from March 4th and 8th to 11th) to manipulate the phones, (b) the knowledge of Kalaji about terrorists operations and electronics (those well soldered wires) and his relations with other Syrians involved in the attack, requested an arrest warrant against him. The Civil Guards suspect that he is the person that attached the wires to the vibrating units of the mobile phones used in 3/11.
That is, no Al Qaeda, no ETA, but a Police officer.
El Mundo explains how the police found out that one of their own was the owner of the store where the cell phones were programmed:At this point I still haven't touched on the Alternate Lockerbie Bombing theory which posits that Mr. Kassar, given a blind eye due to Iran/Contra involvement in his drug running operations in the Med., was able to get the bomb on-board the flight with help from Libyans. Mind you that is *not* outside the realm of what Mr. Kassar has been known to do. There also needs to be a strong look at the BNL scandal, transfer of weapons capability to other Nations, like Chile, and then onwards from there to Iraq for things like cluster bombs. And the whole involvement with Carlos Menem, Syria, Iran and advanced missile designs and possible nuclear technology needs something far more than what Argentina has been able to do to it. His high level contacts there, however, do point to this recent deal with FARC.From the data obtained in the van, plus the data from the unexploded knapsack bomb, the cell phones that Jamal Ahmidam’s people bought at Bazar Top (the Indian store), and the following “release” [by which the cell phones were able to be operated from any source including calling cards] of those phones, Kalaji’s coworkers at the General Information office came to his store, Tecnología de Sistemas Telefónicos Ayman.Kalaji's Palestinian connections are strong and remain strong. El Mundo describes him as "Kalaji, who considers himself a defender of the Palestinian cause". My question is, is it wise of the Spanish intelligence services to have place in such sensitive jobs both Kalaji and members of his family?
From that very moment, Maussili Kalaji began to fully cooperate with his ex-coworkers at the Information Office, and thanks to him, and to his having written down the IMEI identification numbers of the Bazar Top cell numbers he had been asked to “release” (i.e., program so they phones would allow calling cards from any company and in any modality, prepayment, or contract), the investigators were able to find the Leganés apartment where the terrorist leader of the 3/11 trains of death had taken shelter.
. . .
He was in charge of the Syrian Monzer Al-Kassar
Maussili Kalaji thoroughly knows the Syrian community in Spain, and additionally, was the Spanish agent in charge of listening to and translating all of the telephone conversations of Monzer Al-Kassar, allegad weapons trafficker that was charged by judge Baltasar Garzón for collaborating in the Achille Lauro hijacking.
The ship’s hijacking took place in 1985, and in 1992 judge Garzón charged Al-Kassar -- Syrian resident of Marbella and representative of the Spanish government in some weapons sales to third countries – of allegedly belonging to the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (led by Abu Abbas [see link]), of murder, of belonging to an armed gang and terrorist organization, of attempted murder, illegal detention, and piracy.
Kalaji, as member of the Office of Information and by order of the judge, kept close match on Al-Kassar and his family; but eventually the Syrian friend of former Cesid director Alonso Manglano and ex-Secretary of the Interior Rafael Vera, was absolved of all charges of which judge Garzón had accused him.
FARC is more than just your standard Marxist/Leftist/Narcoterror group: they are trying to get the US Congress to curtail anti-narcotics weapons and training to Columbia. Why is that important?
Because FARC tried to assassinate President Clinton in 2000 on a state visit to Columbia, the bomb being found just a couple of hours before he arrived at a place to give a speech. They are already well known for anti-American terrorism, but that steps over the line to something completely different... and Congress giving into *that* is cowardice.
And cowardice we can ill afford in this nasty future that Mr. Kassar represents.