December 5, 2010 Leave a comment
October 22, 2010 Leave a comment
Al-Qaeda is poised to overrun five states in North Africa and the Middle East, creating terrorist safe havens from which the network can launch attack on the West, Europe and the US have been warned.
October 7, 2009 Leave a comment
In the most profound financial change in recent Middle East history, Gulf Arabs are planning – along with China, Russia, Japan and France – to end dollar dealings for oil, moving instead to a basket of currencies including the Japanese yen and Chinese yuan, the euro, gold and a new, unified currency planned for nations in the Gulf Co-operation Council, including Saudi Arabia, Abu Dhabi, Kuwait and Qatar.
Secret meetings have already been held by finance ministers and central bank governors in Russia, China, Japan and Brazil to work on the scheme, which will mean that oil will no longer be priced in dollars. Read more of this post
September 22, 2009 1 Comment
Barack Obama is an eloquent, brainy and likeable man with a fascinating biography. He is not George Bush. Those are great qualities. But they are not enough to lead America, let alone the world.
Admittedly, the presidential to-do list is terrifying. The economy requires his full-time attention. So does health-care reform. And climate change. Indeed, he deserves praise for spending so much time on thankless foreign policy issues. He is tackling all the big problems: restarting Middle East peace talks, defanging Iran and North Korea and a “reset” of relations with Russia. But none of them are working. Read more of this post
September 9, 2009 Leave a comment
Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez has accused Israel of genocide against the Palestinian people, telling a French newspaper that the bombing of Gaza late last year was an unprovoked attack.
“The question is not whether the Israelis want to exterminate the Palestinians. They’re doing it openly,” Chavez said in an interview with Le Figaro published on Wednesday.
The Venezuelan president, who has just completed a tour of Middle Eastern and Arab countries, brushed aside Israeli assertions that its attack on Gaza was a response to rocket fire from Islamist group Hamas which rules the coastal enclave.
“What was it if not genocide? … The Israelis were looking for an excuse to exterminate the Palestinians,” Chavez said, adding that sanctions should have been slapped on Israel.
Israel launched an offensive against the Gaza Strip on December 27 2008 with the declared aim of curbing rocket fire from the region into southern Israel.
The land, sea and air assault lasted 22 days, and left some 1,300 Palestinians dead, according to medical sources.
Chavez said he recognized Israel’s right to exist, as with all countries, but added that the Jewish state must respect the Palestinian people’s right to self-determination.
The Venezuelan president said he wanted more clarity from the United States on its foreign policy, adding that he was disappointed by recent U.S. dealings in South America, including the installation of military bases in Colombia.
“Sadly, the arrival of Obama brought with it a lot of hope, but little change,” he said.
June 10, 2009 Leave a comment
A veteran U.N. war crimes investigator acknowledged his probe of possible war crimes by Israel and Hamas — which included interviewing dozens of victims and poring through the files of human rights groups — is unlikely to lead to prosecutions.
Israel has refused to cooperate, depriving his team access to military sources and victims of Hamas rockets. And Hamas security often accompanied his team during their five-day trip to Gaza last week, raising questions about the ability of witnesses to freely describe the militant group’s actions.
But the chief barrier remains the lack of a court with clear jurisdiction to hear any resulting cases stemming from the investigation into Israel’s three-week offensive in Gaza which ended in January and was designed to stop years of Hamas rocket fire into southern Israel. Read more of this post
May 11, 2009 1 Comment
Iranian police officials say drug production in Afghanistan has had a 40-fold increase since the US led invasion of the country in 2001.
Afghanistan’s opium poppy crop is set to break all records this year, as grim reports by Iranian sources showed that drug production has reached a new height in the land-locked country.
Instability in the wake of the US invasion is widely believed to be the main reason behind Afghanistan’s booming market for drug production and opium trade. Read more of this post
May 11, 2009 1 Comment
A United Nations inquiry concluded that Israel’s military forces carried out direct and intentional strikes on its premises during the assault on Gaza earlier this year. Israel was therefore responsible for the deaths and injuries of UN personnel and civilians, as well as extensive damage to its property.
The inquiry, led by Ian Martin, a former secretary general of Amnesty International, found that the Israel Defence Force (IDF) was “involved in varying degrees of negligence or recklessness with regard to United Nations premises and to the safety of United Nations staff and other civilians within those premises, with consequent deaths, injuries, and extensive physical damage and loss of property.”
• The deaths of three young men killed by a single IDF missile strike at the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) Asma school in Gaza City. Read more of this post
April 21, 2009 Leave a comment
Organised piracy syndicates operating in Dubai and other Gulf states are laundering vast sums of money taken in ransom from vessels hijacked off the Horn of Africa.
Investigators hired by the shipping industry have told The Independent that around $80m (£56m) has been paid out in the past year alone – far more than has previously been admitted. But while some of this money has ended up in the pirate havens of Somalia, millions have been laundered through bank accounts in the United Arab Emirates and other parts of the Middle East.
The so-called “godfathers” of the illicit operations, according to investigators, include businessmen from Somalia and the Middle East, as well as other nationalities on the Indian sub-continent. There have also been reports that some of the money from piracy ransoms has gone to Islamist militants. Read more of this post
March 24, 2009 4 Comments
Israeli soldiers used an 11-year-old Palestinian boy as a human shield during the war against Hamas in the Gaza Strip, UN human rights experts said yesterday.
The Israeli Defence Force ordered the boy to walk in front of soldiers being fired on in the Gaza neighbourhood of Tel al-Hawa and enter buildings before them, said the UN secretary general’s envoy for protecting children in armed conflict. The boy also was told to open the bags of Palestinians — presumably to protect the soldiers from possible explosives — before being released at the entrance to a hospital, Radhika Coomaraswamy said.
She said the January 15 incident was a violation of Israeli and international law.
It was included in a 43- page report published yesterday, and was just one of many verified human rights atrocities during the three- week war between Israel and Hamas that ended on January 18, she said.
Coomaraswamy — who visited Gaza and Israel in February — accused Israeli soldiers of shooting Palestinian children, bulldozing a home with a woman and child still inside, and shelling a building they had ordered civilians into a day earlier.
“Violations were reported on a daily basis, too numerous to list,” she said.
Coomaraswamy said there also have been allegations that Hamas used human shields or fired from heavily populated areas, which UN officials are investigating.
Israel criticised the report as “unable or perhaps unwilling” to address Hamas rocket attacks from Gaza or the threat of terrorism.
“The report claims to examine Israel’s actions while it willfully ignores and downplays the terrorist and other threats we face,” Ambassador Aharon Leshno Yaar told the 47-nation Human Rights Council. He did not address the report’s specific allegation about the boy, but an army spokesman rejected the claim.
“We are an army to which morals and high ethical standards are paramount,” said Captain Elie Isaacson.
Coomaraswamy said “hundreds of Israeli violations have been documented and verified” by UN officials who were in the territory.
March 20, 2009 Leave a comment
As Israeli talks of war on Iran gain momentum, Israel’s military Chief of Staff says the army must prepare for a military aggression.
In a meeting with top US diplomats on Monday, Lt. Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi said Israel could not live with a nuclear Iran and that an Israeli military strike was a “serious” option in retarding the country’s progress.
Ashkenazi — whose request to meet with President Barack Obama and his American counterpart Admiral Mike Mullen was turned down — made the remarks in a meeting with US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and her designated US envoy to the Persian Gulf, Dennis Ross. The Israeli general and the American hosts discussed the Iranian issue shortly after reports revealed that the Israeli Prime Minister-designate Benjamin Netanyahu plans a “major military confrontation” in the next few months.
Israel, believed by many to be the sole possessor of a nuclear arsenal in the Middle East, says Iran and its nuclear program pose an “existential threat” to Tel Aviv. Under the claim, Israeli officials in the military and the government regularly threaten to launch aerial strikes against Iranian nuclear infrastructure. Tehran is a signatory to the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and, according to the UN nuclear watchdog, has not opted to violate the treaty.
Iran says the only objective of its program is to make use of the civilian applications of the nuclear technology. The US, Israel and their European allies – Britain, France and Germany –, accuse the country of having military intentions in its pursuit.
Ashkenazi added that any final decision on Iran would be made by the government. He, however, said that he had been tasked with drawing up contingency plans since a military operation was a ‘concrete possibility’.
February 6, 2009 4 Comments
Hamas negotiators left Egypt without a long-term ceasefire with Israel on Thursday – but not before some members of the militant group’s delegation were stopped at the Gaza border with millions in cash.
The delegation walked away from the ceasefire talks because of disagreements over the blockage on Gaza, and over border security, but talks will continue at a later date. Egypt had set Thursday as an expected date for reaching a long-term truce deal. An Egyptian security official, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorised to speak to the media, said the group initially refused to be searched by Egyptian authorities at the Rafah border crossing. When the group relented, authorities found $US7 million ($10.9 million) and 2 million euro ($4 million) in cash in their suitcases.
Another security official, also speaking on condition of anonymity, said $US9 million and 2 million euro were found. The discrepancy could not be immediately explained. The money was later deposited in an account in Egypt by a Hamas member who stayed behind while the rest of the delegation was allowed to return to Gaza, the second security official said. It was not clear what would happen to the money. There was no immediate comment from Hamas. The incident is a sensitive one for Egypt, particularly now when Israel is demanding a halt to Hamas smuggling into Gaza as part of truce negotiations. Israel complains that Hamas – which gets funding from Iran, Syria and donations from supporters – smuggles money and weapons through Egypt into the Gaza Strip. Mostly the smuggling is done through tunnels at the border. But in the past – before border crossings were tightly sealed in 2007 – Hamas officials had brought in cash as well.
In 2006, a senior Hamas official bragged about successfully carrying $42 million across the border. Arab banks have generally refused to transfer money to Gaza for fear of running afoul of the United States, which considers Hamas a terrorist organisation. The money has helped keep afloat the Hamas government, which is generally shunned by foreign governments. Israel and Hamas do not talk directly, so Egypt has been mediating talks on solidifying the shaky ceasefire that went into effect on January 18, ending Israel’s three-week offensive on Gaza.
January 7, 2009 1 Comment
Venezuela has expelled the Israeli ambassador to protest against the country’s assault on Gaza, after the Venezuelan president described it as a “holocaust”.
The move on Tuesday came hours after 40 Palestinians were killed at a UN school where civilians had taken shelter amid the offensive.
“The Holocaust, that is what is happening right now in Gaza,” Hugo Chavez, the Venezuelan president, said in televised comments.
“The president of Israel at this moment should be taken to the International Criminal Court together with the president of the United States.”
At least 660 Palestinians have been killed in Gaza since Israel began its offensive on December 27, in what it says is an attempt to halt Palestinian rocketfire from Gaza.
Venezuela’s foreign ministry said in a statement that Israel’s campaign constituted “flagrant violations of international law” and the use of “state terrorism”.
“For the reasons mentioned above, the government of Venezuela has decided to expel the ambassador of Israel and part of the personnel of the embassy of Israel,” the statement said.
On Monday, Chavez, a strong critic of Israel and the US, had accused Washington of poisoning Yasser Arafat, the late former Palestinian president, to destabilise the Middle East and justify US-backed Israeli incursions.
The United States, which Chavez describes as a decadent empire, firmly backs Israel, its principal ally in the region. On Tuesday, the White House said it would support an “immediate” ceasefire in Gaza but only if it was likely to be “durable”.
December 15, 2008 Leave a comment
A detailed official history of the U.S. effort to reconstruct Iraq after Saddam Hussein’s overthrow in 2003 blamed its failings on “blinkered and disjointed” prewar planning, a deadly insurgency and wasteful and ill-managed contracting.
The 500-plus page document also asserts that the Bush administration, in early stages of the war, exaggerated the number of Iraqi forces trained to help American troops provide adequate security.
The study, “Hard Lessons: The Iraq Reconstruction Experience,” was produced by a special U.S. auditing group that has dug deeply into the multibillion-dollar reconstruction effort since 2004. It is a detailed summation of the findings from many previous audits and reviews by the Office of the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction, led by Stuart Bowen.
Among its central conclusions is the Washington was unprepared and ill-equipped to reconstruct Iraq in the aftermath of an invasion that led to an insurgency, a collapse of government and an economy that “switched off.” The document also suggests that this arose from an ill-fitting U.S. national security structure, which it said could produce an equally ineffective reconstruction effort in future conflicts.
Thus far the United States has spent about $50 billion on Iraq reconstruction.
December 15, 2008 Leave a comment
During a farewell visit to Baghdad on Sunday, President George W. Bush defended a war that has taken far more time, money and lives than anticipated, saying the conflict “has not been easy” but was necessary for US security, Iraqi stability and “world peace”.
But in a sign of lingering anger against the US military presence, an Iraqi journalist shouted: “This is a goodbye kiss from the Iraqi people, dog,” and hurled his shoes at the US president during a news conference with prime minister Nouri al-Maliki.
Throwing shoes at somebody is a supreme insult in the Middle East. One of the shoes sailed over the president’s head and slammed into the wall behind him and he had to duck to miss the other one. Mr Maliki tried to block the second shoe with his arm.
“It’s like going to a political rally and have people yell at you,” said Mr Bush. “I don’t know what the guy’s cause was. I didn’t feel the least bit threatened by it.”
Mr Bush had landed in Iraq under a veil of secrecy for his fourth and presumably final visit as president.
He was scheduled to meet US troops and Iraqi leaders about a security agreement that calls for the withdrawal of US forces by 2011.
After meeting with Iraqi President Jalal Talabani at Salam Palace, Mr Bush hailed the security agreement as “a reminder of our friendship and as a way forward to help the Iraqi people realise the blessings of a free society”.
“The work hasn’t been easy, but it has been necessary for American security, Iraqi hope, and world peace,” Mr Bush said, adding: “I am just so grateful that I had a chance to come back to Iraq before my presidency ended.”
Mr Bush’s praise for the security agreement is particularly remarkable given that the US administration spent years dismissing proposals for withdrawal timelines as dangerous admissions of defeat. The agreement came after months of hard bargaining by Iraqi leaders, who insisted on a firm date for the removal of US troops.
The US president’s visit comes against a backdrop of declining violence across Iraq, which the Bush Administration attributes to a buildup of thousands of reinforcements last year.
But attacks have continued and many areas in Iraq remain unstable, particularly in the north. Last week, at least 57 Iraqis were killed in a suicide attack at a popular restaurant outside of the oil-rich city of Kirkuk.
Mr Bush left Iraq and arrived in Afghanistan late on Sunday, a pool report from Air Force One said. The White House said Bush plans to meet with US troops and Afghan President Hamid Karzai and address US troops.
Source: Financial Times
November 27, 2008 2 Comments
The Bahamas has been named in what has been described as the biggest drug bust ever in Israel as lawmen in that Middle Eastern country reported breaking up a smuggling ring involving three countries. They said one and a half tonnes of cocaine, worth US$500 million, have been seized in the Caribbean island, Spain and Peru.
A statement issued by law enforcement officials did not reveal how much of the illegal drug was found in the Bahamas, neither did it give any indication as to how deeply the island was involved in the ring.
However, the police statement said that the drugs were hidden inside industrial machinery and then shipped in containers from Latin America to Europe and the Middle East.
The contraband was reportedly seized between October 5 and November 15 as a result of a joint investigation carried out by Israeli authorities and various European and South American police forces.
It has been reported that some Israelis have been arrested so far, including a welder and the head of a cargo company who arranged the drugs’ transport. They were held in Peru.
Source: Caribbean 360
November 13, 2008 2 Comments
Among the captains of industry, spin doctors and financial advisers accompanying British prime minister Gordon Brown on his fund-raising visit to the Gulf this week, one name was surprisingly absent. This may have had something to do with the fact that the tour kicked off in Saudi Arabia. But by the time the group reached Qatar, Baron David de Rothschild was there, too, and he was also in Dubai and Abu Dhabi.
Although his office denies that he was part of the official party, it is probably no coincidence that he happened to be in the same part of the world at the right time. That is how the Rothschilds have worked for centuries: quietly, without fuss, behind the scenes.
“We have had 250 years or so of family involvement in the finance business,” says Baron Rothschild. “We provide advice on both sides of the balance sheet, and we do it globally.”
The Rothschilds have been helping the British government – and many others – out of a financial hole ever since they financed Wellington’s army and thus victory against the French at Waterloo in 1815. According to a long-standing legend, the Rothschild family owed the first millions of their fortune to Nathan Rothschild’s successful speculation about the effect of the outcome of the battle on the price of British bonds. By the 19th century, they ran a financial institution with the power and influence of a combined Merrill Lynch, JP Morgan, Morgan Stanley and perhaps even Goldman Sachs and the Bank of China today.
In the 1820s, the Rothschilds supplied enough money to the Bank of England to avert a liquidity crisis. There is not one institution that can save the system in the same way today; not even the US Federal Reserve. However, even though the Rothschilds may have lost some of that power – just as other financial institutions on that list have been emasculated in the last few months – the Rothschild dynasty has lost none of its lustre or influence. So it was no surprise to meet Baron Rothschild at the Dubai International Financial
Rothschild’s opened in Dubai in 2006 with ambitious plans to build an advisory business to complement its European operations. What took so long?
The answer, as many things connected with Rothschilds, has a lot to do with history. When Baron Rothschild began his career, he joined his father’s firm in Paris. In 1982 President Francois Mitterrand nationalised all the banks, leaving him without a bank. With just US$1 million (Dh3.67m) in capital, and five employees, he built up the business, before merging the French operations with the rest of the family’s business in the 1990s.
Gradually the firm has started expanding throughout the world, including the Gulf. “There is no debate that Rothschild is a Jewish family, but we are proud to be in this region. However, it takes time to develop a global footprint,” he says.
An urbane man in his mid-60s, he says there is no single reason why the Rothschilds have been able to keep their financial business together, but offers a couple of suggestions for their longevity. “For a family business to survive, every generation needs a leader,” he says. “Then somebody has to keep the peace. Building a global firm before globalisation meant a mindset of sharing risk and responsibility. If you look at the DNA of our family, that is perhaps an element that runs through our history. Finally, don’t be complacent about giving the family jobs.”
He stresses that the Rothschild ascent has not been linear – at times, as he did in Paris, they have had to rebuild. While he was restarting their business in France, his cousin Sir Evelyn was building a British franchise. When Sir Evelyn retired, the decision was taken to merge the businesses. They are now strong in Europe, Asia especially China, India, as well as Brazil. They also get involved in bankruptcy restructurings in the US, a franchise that will no doubt see a lot more activity in the months ahead.
So how did the Rothschilds manage to emerge relatively unscathed from the financial meltdown? “You could say that we may have more insights than others, or you may look at the structure of our business,” he says. “As a family business, we want to limit risk. There is a natural pride in being a trusted adviser.”
It is that role as trusted adviser to both governments and companies that Rothschilds is hoping to build on in the region. “In today’s world we have a strong offering of debt and equity,” he says. “They are two arms of the same body looking for money.”
Even when not at work, Baron Rothschild’s tastes are sober. He lives between Paris and London, is a keen family man – he has one son who is joining the business next September and three daughters – an enthusiastic golfer, and enjoys the “odd concert”. He is also involved in various charity activities, including funding research into brain disease and bone marrow disorders.
It is part of Rothschild lore that its founder sent his sons throughout Europe to set up their own interlinked offices. So where would Baron Rothschild send his children today?
“I would send one to Asia, one to Europe and one to the United States,” he said. “And if I had more children, I would send one to the UAE.”
Source: The National[UAE]
October 7, 2008 Leave a comment
Pakistan’s foreign exchanges reserves are so low that the country can only afford one month of imports and faces possible bankruptcy.
Officially, the central bank holds $8.14 billion of foreign currency, but if forward liabilities are included, the real reserves may be only $3 billion — enough to buy about 30 days of imports like oil and food.
Nine months ago, Pakistan had $16 bn in the coffers. The government is engulfed by crises left behind by Pervez Musharraf, the military ruler who resigned the presidency in August. High oil prices have combined with endemic corruption and mismanagement to inflict huge damage on the economy.
September 17, 2008 Leave a comment
Gonzales boy wuh ya gone an’ do
Last month St.Vincent & the Grenadines established diplomatic ties with Iran. This happen during a visit summit visit of the Nonaligned Movement over there. What is this Nonaligned Movement?
The Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) is an international organization of states considering themselves not formally aligned with or against any major power bloc. It was founded in April 1955; as of 2007, it has 118 members. The purpose of the organization as stated in the Havana Declaration of 1979 is to ensure “the national independence, sovereignty, territorial integrity and security of non-aligned countries” in their “struggle against imperialism, colonialism, neo-colonialism, racism, Zionism, and all forms of foreign aggression, occupation, domination, interference or hegemony as well as against great power and bloc politics.” They represent nearly two-thirds of the United Nations’s members and comprise 55 percent of the world population, particularly countries considered to be developing or part of the third world’. Source – Wikipedia
Quite a mouthful. Even those St. Vincent has the right to establish ties with whomever it wish to, what could cause Gonzales to engage in such an act at a time when the West continue to accuse Iran of developing nuclear weapons with a possible bombing of Tehran.
No wonder Mary Ourisman [US ambassador of Barbados & Eastern Caribbean] expressed concern. What the hell was he thinking!
Gonzales response, “My assessment is that Iran wants to come in from the cold,” Gonsalves said late Monday [15th] at a news conference. “Iran wants to be engaged internationally, and it is the duty of countries to engage others.”
I like how the Opposition Leader put it, ”These international agencies also have political agendas.“ Well said!
If US and Iran goes to war will St.Vincent break diplomatics tie with Iran? If it is the aggressor? Or maintain ties if US is the aggressor? Does St.Vincent wish to risk becoming an enemy state in the world of international politics?