Saturday, September 27, 2014

Qatar supports jihadism

From The Jerusalem Center, September 23, 2014:

  • Qatar is unquestionably engaged in international terrorist financing. According to the U.S. Treasury’s division for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence, “Qatar, a longtime U.S. ally, has for many years openly financed Hamas.”
  • Qatar aids Hamas, the Muslim Brotherhood, Jabhat al Nusra, al-Qaeda affiliates, Libyan Islamists, and even ISIS.
  • The key Qatari link to the Muslim Brotherhood has been Sheikh Yusuf al-Qaradawi, who broadcasts on Qatar’s al Jazeera. In 2002, his foundation was designated a terrorist organization by the U.S. government.
  • Through the Muslim Brotherhood, Qatar has attempted to undermine Jordan, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Bahrain. Qatar’s ruling Al Thani family believe they are “worthy of challenging Riyadh [Saudi Arabia].” ...
Follow the link to read the full report.

Erdoğan’s Flying Carpet Unravels

From Asia Times Online, September 23, 2014, by Spengler:

...Turkey’s financial position is one of the world’s great financial mysteries, in fact, a uniquely opaque puzzle: the country has by far the biggest foreign financing requirement relative to GDP among all the world’s large economies, yet the sources of its financing are impossible to trace.

...At around 8% of GDP, Turkey’s current account deficit is a standout among emerging markets. It is at the level of Greece before its near-bankruptcy in 2011. Where is the money coming from to cover it?

A great deal of it is financed by short-term debt, mainly through borrowings by banks.

Little of this appears on the Bank for International Settlements tables of Western banks’ short-term lending to other banks, which means that the source of the bank loans lies elsewhere than in the developed world. Gulf State banks are almost certainly the lenders, by process of elimination.

Recently...the rate of growth of bank borrowing has tapered off. What has replaced bank loans?

According to Turkey’s central bank, the main source of new financing cannot be identified: It appears on the books of the central bank as “errors and omissions”.

Analysts close to Turkey’s ruling party claim that the unidentified flows represent a political endorsement from Turkey’s friends in the Gulf States. Quoted in Al-Monitor, political scientist Mustafa Sahin boasted: “The secret of how Turkey avoided the 2008 global economic crisis is in these mystery funds. The West suspects that Middle East capital is entering Turkey without records, without being registered. Qatar and other Muslim countries have money in Turkey. These unrecorded funds came to Turkey because of their confidence in Erdoğan and the Muslim features of the AKP and the signs of Turkey restoring its historic missions.”

It seems clear from the data that short-term bank lending and mystery inflows have been interchangeable means of covering Turkey’s deficit. When the growth of bank lending slowed, errors and omissions rose during the past eight years, and vice versa.

This continuing trade-off suggests that bank lending and mystery inflows have a common origin, presumably in the Gulf States. But it seems unlikely that Qatar is the main source of funds for Turkey, simply because its resources are too small to cover the gap. Qatar shares Turkey’s enthusiasm for political Islam in general and the Muslim Brotherhood in particular, but there are alternative explanations. Despite its historical dislike for its former Ottoman overlord and strong disagreement about the Muslim Brotherhood, Saudi Arabia may want to influence Turkey as a Sunni counterweight to Iran’s influence in the region.

If mystery attends Turkey’s past economic performance, the future is all the cloudier. Erdoğan’s power rests on his capacity to deliver jobs. The country’s economic performance has depended in turn on extremely rapid credit growth...

According to Moody’s, 80% Turkish corporate loans are denominated in foreign currency, which bears far lower interest rates than local-currency loans, but entails foreign exchange risk: a devaluation of Turkey’s currency would increase the debt-service costs of over-levered Turkish borrowers. Credit to Turkey’s private sector is still growing at more than 20% year-on-year, down from a peak of 45% in 2010, but remains extremely fast.

Despite the extremely rapid rate of credit growth, Turkey’s economy has stalled. Turkey reported 2% annualized growth in real GDP during the second quarter, but a detailed look at the economy shows a far direr picture. Manufacturing and construction are falling while inflation is surging.

New housing permits, meanwhile, are down by almost 40% year-on-year for single-family homes, and negative for all categories of construction (measured by square meter of planned new space).

The biggest contribution to reported GDP growth during the second quarter came from the finance sector. In short, the central bank is counting the banks’ contribution to the lending bubble as a contribution to growth. That is absurd, considering that most of the increase in lending to the private sector is to help debtors pay their interest on previous loans. A fairer accounting would show zero growth or even a decline in Turkey’s GDP....

During the run-up to the 2014 elections, construction employment increased sharply even while employment in other branches of the economy declined.

Judging from the plunge in building permits, though, this source of support for Turkey’s economy disappeared during the first half of 2014.

That leaves the mystery investors in Turkey holding an enormous amount of risk in the Turkish currency. Turkey’s currency has fallen by half against the US dollar, cheapening the cost of Turkish assets to foreign investors. The Turkish lira nearly collapsed in January, but the country’s central bank stopped its decline by raising interest rates. The lira has been slipping again, and the central bank has let rates rise to try to break the fall.

Despite the largesse of the Gulf States, Turkey is locked into a vicious cycle of currency depreciation, higher interest rates, and declining economic activity. Turkish voters stood by Erdoğan in last March’s national elections, believing that he was the politician most likely to deliver jobs and growth. But his ability to do so is slipping. If the Turkish lira drops sharply, the cost of debt service to Turkish companies will become prohibitive, while the cost of imports and ensuing inflation will depress Turkish incomes. 

By some measures Turkey already is in a recession, and it is at risk of economic free-fall.

... For the past dozen years he has made himself useful enough to his neighbors to stay in business. His magic carpet is unraveling, though, and his triumph in the March elections may turn out to be illusory much sooner than most analysts expect.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

United States Attack in Syria Parallels Israel's in Gaza

Hamas-Fatah Rivalry Rages Unabated

From the Times of Israel, 22 September 2014, by Elhanan Miller:

Classes in the southern Gaza Strip city of Khan Younis have been disrupted by the screams and shouts of political prisoners being interrogated by Hamas security forces in a nearby building, an official Palestinian Authority daily reported. 

As "reconciliation talks" between Fatah and Hamas resumed in Cairo on Monday, Ramallah-based Al-Hayat Al-Jadidah claimed that pupils in a girls’ school in central Khan Younis have been affected by fear and horror as a result of the torture...

Despite having formed a "unity government of technocrats" on June 2, the political schism between the two rival movements remains as deep as ever, with Abbas openly accusing Hamas of scheming to topple him and of instigating the recent round of violence with Israel.

Many anonymous testimonies were sent to the daily by students fearing reprisal for complaining openly. “M,” a new student at the school, asked her counterpart “A” about the origin of the shrieks and was told that the building next door belonged to Hamas police’s General Investigations Department.

Another student, “S,” said she was “really fearful” of the nearby police station, stating that “police should maintain law and order and not arouse angst through perpetual police car traffic and the coming and going of suspects being questioned.

Hamas has branded accusations such as those expressed by Al-Hayat Al-Jadidah a "smear campaign instigated by Fatah", which continues to oppress and harass Hamas operatives in the West Bank. 

On Sunday, West Bank security agencies arrested six Hamas operatives and summoned two for questioning, Hamas’s Palestinian Information Center news website reported.

The Islamic movement [Hamas] — which banished Fatah from the Gaza Strip in a bloody coup in 2007 — continues to run its own ministry of interior in the coastal enclave, responsible for the multiple security forces active there...

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Arab Bank found guilty for aiding terror attacks in Israel on 300 Americans

From the NEW YORK DAILY NEWS Monday, September 22, 2014, by JOHN MARZULLI:

After a five-week trial in federal [US] court, the plaintiffs — bombing victims or their relatives— convinced panelists that Arab Bank either knowingly or with willful blindness transferred millions of dollars to charities controlled by Hamas and to families of suicide bombers between 2001 and 2004. Another jury will decide monetary damages.

Arab Bank's main office, pictured, is in Amman, Jordan, but it also has a branch in New York City — where a federal jury found the institution liable for funneling money to terrorists.
Arab Bank's main office, pictured, is in Amman, Jordan, but it also has a branch in New York City — where a federal jury found the institution liable for funneling money to terrorists.

In a historic verdict, a Brooklyn federal civil jury on Monday found Arab Bank liable for 24 terrorist attacks that killed or wounded nearly 300 U.S. citizens in Israel.
“This is an enormous milestone,” plaintiffs' lawyer Gary Osen said. “This is the first financial institution held liable for knowingly supporting terrorism.”
After a five-week trial in Brooklyn Federal Court, the plaintiffs proved that Arab Bank either knowingly or with willful blindness transferred millions of dollars to charities controlled by the Hamas terror group and to families of suicide bombers between 2001 and 2004.

NYC PAPERS OUT. Social media use restricted to low res file max 184 x 128 pixels and 72 dpi
Josh Faudem, who survived a 2003 suicide bombing in Tel Aviv, is shown in August outside Brooklyn Federal Court after he testified in the civil trial against Arab Bank.

Arab Bank argued that its hands were clean of blood because the charities were humanitarian groups that were not designated as terrorist organizations by the United States or any other government.

“The plaintiff's evidence was a mile wide and an inch deep,” Arab Bank's lead lawyer Shand Stephens said outside court. He predicted the verdict would be reversed by a U.S. Court of Appeals.

Shand complained that the bank's defense was undermined by a federal judge's order that the jury could draw a negative inference from the fact that a mountain of bank customer records was concealed from the plaintiffs.

Juror Jill Rath told reporters that the issue was one of the smoking guns that convinced panelists  that Arab Bank was liable for the attacks.
“There was a great deal of knowledge in the bank about (Hamas),” Rath said.
No date has been set for a new jury to be selected to decide the amount of monetary damages.

The mother of Steve Averbach, who was mortally wounded in the bombing of a bus in Tel Aviv, said the Arab Bank was just as culpable as the suicide bombers and she was sorry it faced only a monetary penalty and not criminal charges.

“I'm disappointed the United States didn't protect its citizens,” Maida Averbach, 76, said.

Gaza War's Economic Impact on Israel Was Minor

From Globes [online], Israel business news, September 21, 2014:

International rating agency Standard & Poor's has reiterated its sovereign ratings for Israel, and sees the fiscal effects of Operation Protective Edge in Gaza as minor.
"In our view, the recent Gaza conflict will lead to only a modest weakening of Israel's fiscal trajectory. Although Israel may temporarily reverse its fiscal consolidation, we expect its gross general government debt ratio to remain largely flat in the next three years," the agency says in affirming its 'A+/A-1' foreign and local currency sovereign credit ratings on Israel, with a stable outlook.
"The stable outlook reflects our view that the government will maintain stable public finances and that the impact of security risks on the Israeli economy will be contained..." 
As far as Operation Protective Edge is concerned, the agency writes,
"Although the recent fighting in Gaza is a reminder of the long-term threat posed by geopolitical risks, we consider that in the short term, the effect will only be to accentuate the economic slowdown and modestly weaken the fiscal account. The fighting has not changed our view of Israel's core credit strengths, such as its prosperous and diverse economy, the contribution of natural gas production to a healthy external balance, and its relatively flexible monetary framework." 
The operation is however reflected in a reduction in Standard & Poor's growth projections for the Israeli economy. "Economic activity was already slowing in the first half of 2014, and the July-August fighting is likely to have constrained economic activity in the third quarter as well. As a result, we are lowering our projection for 2014 real GDP growth to 2.3%, which represents the lowest rate of growth since 2009, nearly one point lower than our estimate six months ago. The new projection includes an estimated contribution from new natural gas production of about 0.3%.

For 2015-2017, we forecast that GDP growth will return to 2012-2013 levels, slightly above 3%. In per capita terms, this equates to trend growth of slightly less than 1.5% per year. Income per capita is now above $38,000, making Israel one of the highest-income economies, in our view. Israel's trend growth is also at the higher spectrum of its peer group," Standard & Poor's analyst Elliot Hentov writes.

Gazans Speak Out against Hamas War Crimes

Hamas casualty propaganda campaign

From the Meir Amit Intelligence and Terrorism Center (ITIC), 17 Sept 2014:

An examination of about a third of the names of Palestinians killed in Operation Protective Edge revealed several instances of children and teenagers serving as military operatives in the terrorist organizations. The examination also revealed instances in which the ages of Palestinian casualties were falsified by Gaza's Hamas-controlled ministry of health. For example, boys aged 15 and 17 were integrated into the terrorist operative networks; the age of a nine year-old terrorist auxiliary was listed as 24; and a terrorist operative in his twenties was listed as 13 years of age.

Children and teenagers in Gaza's educational system undergo basic military training in the schools and summer camps. Using them as auxiliaries and sometimes as operatives... is not limited to isolated cases although at this stage it is difficult to estimate the extent of the phenomenon.

Using a Child as a Terrorist Auxiliary and Hiding His Age
The ITIC's ongoing examination of the names of Palestinians killed in Operation Protective Edge revealed the case of a 9 year-old child, who was assisting his uncle, a senor Hamas operative in the ...central Gaza Strip. The boy and his uncle were killed in an IDF attack. They were listed as casualties by the Palestinian ministry of health. The boy ...was nine years old (born in 2005). However, according to the list issued by Dr. Ashraf al-Qudra, spokesman for the Hamas-controlled Palestinian ministry of health in the Gaza Strip, was 24 years old ....listing his age as 24 was not an innocent technical error but rather a deliberate falsification whose objective was to conceal the fact that a child was exploited for terrorist activities....

Using the Death of a Terrorist to boost civilian casualty numbers
[On the other hand] ...The Palestinian ministry of health listed Ibrahim Jamal Kamal Nasr, from Khan Yunis, who was killed on July 18, 2014, as a "13 year-old boy." In reality, he was in his twenties and a terrorist operative in Fatah's Abu al-Rish Martyrs Brigades. was not an innocent technical error but the deliberate insertion into the list of a "13 year-old boy" with a name similar to that of the terrorist operative who was killed....

See the full report for many instances of detailed evidence.

ISIS reaches out to Egyptian insurgents

From Al Arabiya News, Monday, 22 September 2014:

The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) called on insurgents in Egypt's Sinai Peninsula on Monday to press ahead with attacks against Egyptian security forces and continue beheadings. (Photo courtesy: Youtube) 

The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) called on insurgents in Egypt's Sinai Peninsula on Monday to press ahead with attacks against Egyptian security forces and continue beheadings, an announcement likely to deepen concerns over ties between the militant groups.
 "Rig the roads with explosives for them. Attack their bases. Raid their homes. Cut off their heads. Do not let them feel secure," ISIS spokesman Abu Muhammad al-Adnani said in a statement released online.
Adnani also called on supporters to kill citizens of countries taking part in the U.S.-led anti-militant coalition by any available means.
"If you can kill a disbelieving American or European -- especially the spiteful and filthy French -- or an Australian, or a Canadian... including the citizens of the countries that entered into a coalition against the Islamic State, then rely upon Allah, and kill him..." ...
The United States and France are carrying out air strikes against IS targets across Iraq and are seeking to build an international coalition against a group increasingly perceived as a global threat.

Ajnad Misr
Also on Monday, an Egyptian militant group claimed responsibility for Sunday's bomb blast in a busy downtown Cairo street near the Foreign Ministry that killed two senior police officers and wounded several other policemen.

Ajnad Misr, or Soldiers of Egypt, which claimed previous attacks on police, said in a statement posted late Sunday on its Twitter account and on a militant website.

The group said it used an explosive device on "officers of the criminal apparatus" as part of its campaign against security forces.

 It said the attacks will not stop until "the ruling tyrants fall and God's Shariah is established."

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Shana Tova

To all our readers: Shana Tova ....a GOOD Jewish New Year...

Syrian Opposition Leader Visits Wounded Countrymen in Israeli Hospital: ‘Assad Slaughters Us, You Heal Us’

From Algemeiner, 18 Sept 2014:

An exiled Syrian rebel leader visited countrymen wounded in fighting being treated at an Israeli hospital this week, in a first-ever such visit by a senior Syrian official, Israel’s NRG News reported Thursday.

Syria opposition official visits Sieff Hospital in Safed Israel. Photo: Sieff Hospital
Syria opposition official visits Sieff Hospital in Safed Israel. 
Photo: Sieff Hospital. 

“After what Assad has taught us, we see who is the enemy,” 57-year-old opposition leader, Dr. Kamal Al-Labwani, who is living in Turkey, said during his visit, delayed until now for fear of showing recognition of support for the Jewish state. He is here, after attending the International Conference on Counter-Terrorism, held in Herzliya.

During his week-long visit, in which Al-Labwani was to meet with top government officials, he will be joined by Israeli-American businessman, Moti Kahana. Kahana is involved in humanitarian activities for Syrian civil war victims, and is active in efforts to remove the remaining Jews in the country.

Al-Labwani’s visit to the Sieff Hospital in Safed, was in doubt due to fears that Israel would be seen taking a particular side in the bloody three-year conflict, taking place only several dozen kilometers away in the Golan Heights.

So far, Israel has constantly been careful not to be seen taking sides in the civil war, apart from providing humanitarian assistance when needed.

“The visit was amazing,” Al-Labwani said.

Watch a video of Al-Labwani laying out his ideas for peace with Israel:

“For 60 years, Assad has taught us that Israel is the enemy, and now he slaughters us and Israel is taking care of us. Then who is the killer and who is the enemy?” Al-Labwani asked, rhetorically.
A founding member of the Syrian National Council, and Liberal Democratic Union, Al-Labwani, suggested that making peace was “…up to the government of Israel. I think we can open the road, we can cooperate, we can create a new process for peace in Syria and the whole region. But both sides need to understand each other and listen to each other,” he told Israel’s i24 News.

He has suggested turning the Golan Heights into “an international peace park” and opening its tourist sites to the entire world.

“The settlers who want to remain can remain, those who want to return to Israel or elsewhere can go. As for the original [Arab] inhabitants of the Golan, they will have to choose between returning to their land and being compensated,” he said, according to The Times of Israel.
So far, he had visited Jerusalem and Tel Aviv. “We are neighbors and we can be friends,” he told hospital officials.

The Syrian official added that “The message that comes out of the hospital is the most powerful. Strong humanitarian care is preferable to armies and war, and I hope to find a way to make peace. That’s the message I hope comes out of the hospital.”
During his hospital visit, Al-Labwani met with Syrians wounded in battle, as well as with women and children who were wounded during the fighting.

He told about his meeting with a 12-year-old boy who was severely injured and blinded by shelling on his home in a suburb of Damascus.

“He told me about his big brother bringing him on a donkey to Israel, because there was no one to treat him [in Syria]. He said when his injuries heal, he wants to go back to fight those who tried to kill him. This is the face of this struggle, Al-Labwani said.

“This meeting will not be forgotten,” he said, and emphasized how the visit to the hospital “surprised him.”

Al-Labwani served two prison terms, from 2001 to 2011. The first, over activities to promote respect for Syrian democratic discourse in the “Damascus Spring,” and the second time following a visit to Washington, where he met with American officials to discuss promoting democratic processes in Syria.

In the past two years, Al-Labwani has been raising funds for the victims of the war in Syria, has met with members of Congress and American government officials, with Israeli defense officials and Knesset members, in hopes of persuading them to act on behalf of the Syrian people.


From The Washington Institute for Near East Policy, September 19, 2014, by Simon Henderson*:

The foreign minister's visit to the holy city may mark a change in Arab diplomacy toward Israel.

On September 14, Kuwait's first deputy prime minister and foreign minister Sheikh Sabah al-Khaled al-Hamad al-Sabah flew from Jordan to Ramallah for talks with Palestinian Authority president Mahmoud Abbas. The trip was noteworthy enough on its own given Kuwait's continuing enmity toward the Palestinians for siding with Saddam Hussein when Iraq invaded in 1990. What was arguably much more significant was that Sheikh Sabah, a senior member of the ruling family, also took a side trip to Jerusalem to pray in the Old City -- essentially a journey into Israel.

In the view of much of the world, he did not actually visit Israel itself but rather only occupied territory annexed by Israel after the 1967 war. Kuwait does not have official relations with Israel and, unlike Oman and Qatar, never allowed the establishment of an Israeli trade office. The one Israeli diplomatic outpost in the Gulf -- not officially declared but referred to obliquely and almost certainly unintentionally last year in an official budget document -- is not in Kuwait.

Still, Sheikh Sabah's move was a rare and high-profile breaking of the longstanding Arab boycott against visiting the iconic Mosque of Omar (also known as the Dome of the Rock) and the al-Aqsa Mosque, both of which sit on top of what Arabs call al-Haram al-Sharif and Jews and Christians refer to as the Temple Mount. 

Known visits by prominent Arabs to the Haram al-Sharif/Temple Mount since 1967 can be counted on one hand:

  • President Anwar Sadat of Egypt in 1977, 
  • Egyptian foreign minister Amr Mousa in 1994, and 
  • Egypt's Grand Mufti and a Jordanian prince in 2012. 
As recently as May of this year, former Saudi intelligence chief Prince Turki al-Faisal publicly declined an invitation to visit Jerusalem because it was under occupation -- though the offer came from his former Israeli counterpart, Amos Yadlin, with whom the prince was publicly debating regional issues, thereby breaking another Arab diplomatic convention.

Kuwait's official position on Jerusalem is encapsulated in the so-called "Kuwait Declaration" issued at the end of the Arab Summit in May. The summit, held in Kuwait City, was vexed by disagreements over Egypt and Syria, but all of the participating states were able to agree on "the full rejection of the...Judaization of Jerusalem [and] attacks [by Israel] against Islamic and Christian shrines [in Jerusalem]." 

This week, the official Kuwait News Agency reported Sheikh Sabah's visit without mentioning the words "Israel" or "Judaization," instead emphasizing Kuwait's "constant and forever" support of the Palestinian people and quoting the minister as saying he would be paying "more visits to Palestine, including Jerusalem."

According to the Jerusalem Post, the trip was coordinated with Israel, but no representative of the Israeli government or the municipality of Jerusalem was invited to meet with Sheikh Sabah. An unidentified Israeli official was quoted as saying, "When an Arab leader wants to pray at the al-Aqsa Mosque, we will facilitate that."

In the absence of public comment, Kuwait's full diplomatic intentions can only be guessed at. Under the circumstances, the visit could reflect the country's efforts to enhance its reputation for attempting mediation (as in its so-far-unsuccessful attempts to broker reconciliation between Qatar and Saudi Arabia).

From Israel's point of view, Kuwait may be trying to join the Sunni Muslim camp of Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and Jordan, with which Israel is believed to have security ties even in the absence of formal diplomatic relations with Riyadh and Abu Dhabi. 

Whatever the case, the rise of the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) and other dangerous developments in the Middle East appear to be prompting unexpected policy decisions. Palestinian leader Abbas has in the past controversially called for Arab leaders to visit Jerusalem's Muslim shrines and was condemned because it was perceived as advocating normalization with Israel. The lack of high-profile public outrage in the wider Arab world at Sheikh Sabah's gesture is therefore significant.

*Simon Henderson is the Baker Fellow and director of the Gulf and Energy Policy Program at The Washington Institute.