Showing posts with label CONFLITTI MEDIO ORIENTE. Show all posts
Showing posts with label CONFLITTI MEDIO ORIENTE. Show all posts

Saturday, June 30

1st EP. - THE GREAT PUPPETEERS OF THE LIBYAN TRAGEDY

LAST GADAFI's TIME FEBRUAR 22, 2011
Glencore is keeping the marketing rights for the Sarir and Messla crude grades for a third year even though BP and Shell are returning to lift Libyan oil in a sign the country’s industry is perceived as becoming more reliable. One source familiar with the matter said Libya’s state oil firm National Oil Corporation (NOC) had allocated its 2018 crude and that the contracts would be signed next week. 

With production having steadied at around 1 million barrels per day (bpd) since the middle of last year, Libya, beset by factional fighting, has become a less unstable supplier. However, supply risks remain. One pipeline bringing Es Sider crude to export was recently bombed but swiftly repaired. BP and Shell declined to comment. Spokesmen for Glencore and the NOC did not immediately respond to requests for comment (Last August, Shell directly lifted its first cargo of Libyan crude in five years).

Since the end of 2015, Glencore has been the sole marketer of the Sarir and Messla grades, which are produced in the east of the country and exported via the Hariga port. Glencore was one of the few traders willing to deal with the risks associated with Libya’s unrest, Islamic State intrusions and a crippling port blockade that slashed the country’s output.

Earlier this month, the NOC said it was seeking a prompt restart of the country’s largest refinery at Ras Lanuf, following a resolution to arbitration cases with its operator, Lerco. The refinery, closed since 2013, runs on the grades allocated to Glencore. It was not immediately clear when the refinery would resume operations or what would happen to Glencore’s allocation once it does. 

NOC subsidiary Arabian Gulf Oil Co produces the Sarir and Messla grades. Output has been fluctuating between around 150,000 and 230,000 bpd, its chairman said in early January, below its potential 320,000 bpd owing to power problems.

Other contract winners include Vitol, Total, Unipec, OMV, BB Energy, ENI, API, Cepsa, Socar and Repsol, trading and shipping sources said, largely unchanged from 2017 to June, 2018.

-Shell and BP have agreed annual deals to buy Libyan crude oil. Sources told the news agency that Shell’s deal is the first of its kind since 2013, and that the first cargo of 600,000 barrels will start to be loaded from Zueitina port.

-The head the eastern-based National Oil Corporation EAST (NOC) has claimed that his office has signed 29 contracts independently of the Tripoli-based organisation.

Naji al-Maghrabi told Reuters that recent contracts included deals with major states such as Russia and China. Russia is reported to be planning to arm eastern-based strongman General Khalifa Haftar

-The Deputy Prime Minister of Libya’s internationally recognized government in Tobruk, Abdus Salam al Badri, told a conference last week in Malta that his government will punish international oil companies (IOCs) that continue to work with the rival administration in Tripoli.

-In parallel, the Chairman of the National Oil Corporation (NOC) based in the East of Libya, BP, which didn’t have a term deal in 2017, has reportedly also reached an agreement for this year.

-The Tripoli-based National Oil Corporation (NOC) held a series of meetings with a group of global refineries in the Mediterranean area and with a major oil companies last week in London. The first meeting was with BP, followed by meetings with more than 20 partners, customers, Libyan crude refiners and fuel suppliers. BP, which didn’t have a term deal in 2017, has reportedly also reached an agreement for this year.

-The newly-created National Oil Corporation (NOC) loyal to the internationally recognised government in the east of Libya has reportedly invited international oil companies (IOCs) to “discuss legally signed agreements and contracts” at a conference in Dubai next month.

-The Tobruk government set up the rival company – ‘NOC East’ – in Benghazi, but oil buyers are still dealing only with the established NOC in Tripoli. According to Reuters, oil customers have refused to sign any deal with the eastern entity due to legal concerns as geological data to prove ownership of oil reserves are stored at NOC Tripoli. The invitation to a conference on 2nd September was issued by Naji al-Maghrabi, who was recently appointed chairman of the eastern NOC.

-The head the eastern-based National Oil Corporation (NOC) has claimed that his office has signed 29 contracts independently of the Tripoli-based organisation.  Naji al-Maghrabi told Reuters that recent contracts included deals with major states such as Russia and China. Russia is reported to be planning to arm eastern-based strongman General Khalifa Haftar, commander in the Libyan National Army (LNA), who opposes the UN-backed Government of National Accord (GNA) in Tripoli.

-The Deputy Prime Minister of Libya’s internationally recognized government in Tobruk, Abdussalam Elbadri, told a conference last week in Malta that his government will punish international oil companies (IOCs) that continue to work with the rival administration in Tripoli.

-In parallel, the Chairman of the National Oil Corporation (NOC) based in the East of Libya, Nagi al-Magrabi, told Bloomberg: “We will send letters to all the international companies that operate in Libya asking them to deal with the internationally recognized and legal government. “We will take measures based on their respective replies to the letter. If they continue to decline to cooperate with the legal government, we will stop their loadings once their contracts expire.” Mahdi Khalifa, an NOC board member, said that any oil companies that refuse to cooperate with the government face the risk of legal action.

-Libya’s internationally recognised government has warned companies against dealing with the Tripoli-based National Oil Corporation (NOC). Speaking to a press conference of Beida, the head of the House of Representatives (HoR), Abdullah al-Thinni (pictured), said his government is taking further steps to export crude oil from the regions under its control through its locally recognized “NOC”, and away from the Tripoli-based organisation.

-The chairman of the pro-HoR “NOC”, Mabruk Abu Yousef Maraja, warned of the illegality or illegitimacy of dealing with the NOC in Tripoli. He also warned Tripoli not to enter into any contracts or legal actions that would impose any obligations on the Libyan oil sector.

-National Oil Corporation (NOC) Chairman Nuri Berruien [Nuri Balrwin] (pictured), has confirmed that there are to be no new exploration-production sharing agreements (EPSAs) before mid-2014. Answering questions at the end of a conference in London, he added that this would probably be “during a constitutional government”, implying that the current “interim” government is not deemed constitutional enough or does not have the authority or legitimacy to launch an EPSA bidding round, according to Libya Herald. He added that he hoped for a “win-win” situation for both the NOC and the international oil companies, admitting that the current EPSAs had problems for both parties and hoped that the new EPSAs would “encourage long-term development”.

Glencore oil deal in Libya branded worthless by rival government. Internationally recognised regime in Benghazi says commodity firm’s potentially lucrative oil-export deal in Tripoli is with the wrong people. 

Glencore’s deal to export Libyan oil is not worth the paper it is printed on, the commodities company has been told. The Switzerland-based firm agreed last week to buy up to half of Libya’s oil exports from the western division of the National Oil Company in Tripoli, where an Islamist-backed government is based. But the internationally recognised government in Benghazi, in eastern Libya, said Glencore had signed a deal with the wrong people

Nagi Elmagrabi, chairman of the eastern division of the National Oil Company, told Bloomberg that he had written to Glencore asking for an explanation but not yet received a reply. He said that if Glencore had signed a deal with the parallel regime in Tripoli, the Benghazi government could physically prevent Glencore tankers from using Libyan ports. 

The deal in question envisages Glencore loading and finding buyers for crude oil from the Sarir and Messla fields, exported via Tobruk’s Marsa el-Hariga port in the east. The eastern government says it does not recognise any agreement signed with Tripoli.

Finding a way to resolve the impasse could prove particularly lucrative for Glencore, given that Libya’s oil exports have huge potential to increase. Libya was pumping about 1.6m barrels of oil a day before the civil war that ended Colonel Muammar Gaddafi’s rule in 2011. 

Production has since slumped to as low as 400,000 barrels a day, although it could be increased if the security situation in Libya improves. Glencore regularly invests in countries where security risks and political turmoil have deterred other investors, such as the Democratic Republic of Congo and Colombia

However, the company is in need of new sources of income, after the economic slowdown in China prompted a slump in global commodity prices, ravaging its share price. The company floated its shares at £5.30 in 2011 but they have since plunged, closing on Monday at 90.42p. 

The firm announced proposals earlier this year to raise £6.6bn in an effort to allay investors’ fears about its £20bn debt pile. The plan includes mine closures, asset sales and a £1.6bn share-placing but has yet to arrest the decline in Glencore’s stock. Glencore declined to comment on its dealings in Libya


Friday, April 28

GEORGE SOROS WELCOME TO NEW ITALY BANANA REPUBLIC

Newrope Vallombrosa is a unique place in Tuscany. Its founder, Saint Giovanni Gualberto, a Benedictine monk, chose this secluded place in the mountains 40 km east of Florence to lead a hermit-like existence, right after the year 1000, and with a restricted group of monks started his own monastic order, the Vallombrosani.

John Milton among many other travellers – found inspiration in Vallombrosa while traveling across Italy in 1638, and a marble inscription reminds tourists that here Milton put into writing his Paradise Lost. Vallombrosa is not a place for crowds; rather a place where to seek meditation and inspiration.

To me Vallombrosa represents memories from my childhood. It could be called a piece of my personal heimat, if you wish. Back in the 60’s, when a car was still a far-flung luxury for many Italian families of the working class, we would take the sunday morning bus from the train station in Florence with some frugal lunch, and we were back in the city with the same bus in time for dinner. For me, as a child, that was the highlight of the week – or the month – as it was all that we could afford at the time as a holiday.

It was with these memories that I rode my motorcycle along the winding road through the national forest that is part of Vallombrosa. But when I shut off the engine it wasn’t the silence that I had expected as usual but an eerie cacophony that got my attention. A crowd of young Africans, all in their 20’s, were standing and sitting around the area of the monastery, all of them doing the same thing: shouting at their i-phones, evidently talking to their folks back home.

Welcome to the new Italy Banana Republic, where the replacement of the original population, once known as Italians, is in full swing. Only a few years ago this affirmation would have caused sarcastic disbelief, now is the reality in front of our eyes.

It happened overnight (literally), during the winter, when over 100 “migrants” from Africa fresh from their landing in Sicily, were unloaded in this oasis of peace and tranquility. 

Now, you would think the location was chosen because the benedictine monks were ready to open their doors as a sign of charity and compassion. Far from it.
In reality, and without any help from the monks, what was accomplished was business at its best: minimum effort for maximum profit.

Take a group of local entrepreneurs to take over an old, abandoned hotel near the monastery, one of those hotels that attracted travelers once upon a time. Restore it to make it (more or less) look again like a semi-decent hospice so that you can amass in it as many Africans as possible. 

Make as much as 25/35 euro a day per person, courtesy of the Italian taxpayers. Welcome to Italy’s fastest growing and most profitable business. The example of Vallombrosa is not an exception, rather the rule of what is happening in Italy, or what it could otherwise be called “profitable invisibility”.

Until now local governments – especially the ones where elections are approaching – have been very careful in “disposing of” the migrants in secluded, peripheral areas, so that the locals would not notice their presence in their daily lives. Now, at an estimated rate of arrivals/replacements of over 450.000 a year it is going to be a (very serious) problem to keep this “profitable invisibility”.

In fact, as migrants are not confined to their housing and are therefore free to move around, by whatever public transportation is available the hard-to-hide consequence is that a city like Florence resembles every day more and more an African suk, with a young African man outside every commercial establishment begging for money or trying to sell useless Chinese knick-knacks.

If you talk to them, they will all tell you the same thing: they did not know that it was going to be “this bad”. They “were told” back in Nigeria, Ghana, Mali, Senegal, Ivory Coast, Burkina Faso, and the list could continue, that “once here they had it made”. How? I asked, again, who told them these fairy-tales?

I couldn’t get a convincing answer, and I got the feeling I shouldn’t have asked that question. Considering that on average each migrant pays to get to Europe between €2.000 to €4.000, that sum for most is seen as a lifetime investment that should ensure a better future not just for them but for their families back in Africa.

If you invest all your savings plus a potential future debt to arrive in the land of prosperity you are not going to plan on leaving that place anytime soon. After all, even if you are found as an illegal alien on Italian soil, all you will receive is a foglio di via (expulsion warrant) in which Italian state authorities “summon” the illegal alien to leave Italian territory within – normally – a week or so. 

And after that the illegal alien is left free to go, so long, goodbye till next time when he’s caught again perhaps as a result of a crime, and then he will be given another foglio di via, just to refresh his memory that he’s an illegal alien. By then, he knows he is dealing with a italian banana republic.

The refugees receive a daily allowance of €2.50 as pocket money, but obviously they want more. They are not legally allowed to work – thanks to Italy’s mind-boggling bureaucratic system – but can participate as “unpaid volunteers” in social projects such as cleaning of parks, streets, and the like, but, given the fact that it is on a volunteer basis only, the “volunteers” are few and far between, and they certainly prefer to spend the day sitting around or begging for money so that at the end of the day they will have rounded up a few euros.

The only real possibility of work is “low paid” farm labor, and the average pay ranges between €2 to 4/hr, especially in the south. Young italians, even if unemployed, are not interested in hard and tedious farm labour, or washing dishes in a restaurant. So the “migrants” come handy and useful for many potential employers who have at their disposal a virtual endless supply of next to slave labour.

Inevitably, due to these massive arrivals, Italy is under an unprecedented financial strain. Inevitably, those who are bound to suffer the most from this shift in resources are the growing numbers of Italians – now approaching the 5 million mark – who are rapidly declining into the official category of povertà assoluta (absolute poverty) as classified by ISTAT (the National Bureau of Statistics and Census) who would be willing and forced to accept even as little as a few euros per hour just to get by, except that a potential employer doesn’t even consider hiring an Italian for he knows that a legal employee could easily report an unlawful working condition, therefore potentially exposing the employer to heavy fines.

The millions of Italians – especially olders with no families – who have ended up in this category have little or no help from the state, especially when it comes to housing and specific medical care such as dental care. If you are a single adult with no children, chances of getting subsidized housing are next to zero. And that has a quite simple explanation: all the available subsidized housing goes to families with children, and most of them are foreigners with an average of 2/3 children.

Finally, it is Mother Nature who knows no morals, at least not as humans conceive them, and Nature always wants its toll. Just like in the animal world the invasion of alien species in a new environment often causes a severe reduction – or extinction – of native species, in human societies the massive and sudden moving of people from one continent to the other causes – inevitably – infectious diseases to reappear where they were eradicated or increase dramatically, and of course unexpectedly.

Tuscany sets a perfect example. Traditionally friendly and hospitable, thanks to its post -communist local governments, Tuscany has been welcoming sub-Saharan Africans for at least a couple of decades by now, and Tuscany now stands apart in Italy for a dramatic rise in meningitis cases.

Once again, the local government of Tuscany carefully and skillfully plays down the numbers, avoiding – God forbid if Mass Tourism hears about this – the word “epidemic”, but the numbers are out there and are becoming hard to hide.
Of course, the consequential negative effects for local populations facing what is hard to disguise as “humanitarian crisis”, but in reality a planned forced replacement of Europeans, was taken into account when all this was carefully planned by the “movers and shakers behind the curtains”. Nothing could be left to chance.

In order to accomplish this MP (Master Plan), regardless of the name you want to call it, a fundamental ingredient is essential, namely, the complete readiness of a subservient oligarchy, holding key positions in the countries you want to subdue. This oligarchy must be composed of key figures ready to be disposed of whenever necessary or no longer usable. In other words, as perfectly stated by Gaetano Mosca, a political scientist of the late 19th century, “a well organized minority will always have its way over a disorganized majority.” And, shall we add, for an organized minority to reach its goals another essential is to get rid of all potentially powerful obstacles.

Silvio Berlusconi may have been ultimately unfit to lead Italy, but he had some points to his favour, one of them his personal friendship with Muammar Qaddafi. Thanks to that friendship, and as long as Qaddafi was in power, Libya had not become a major jumping point for Italy for sub-Saharan Africans. In 2011, in a matter of months, both leaders are out of the picture, one resigns and one is dead. Libya plunges into a civil war, and chaos in the country is the result, with no recognized central authority any more.

Two years later, in October 2013, one of the things that you would have certainly called “impossible” to happen in life actually does happen: the Pope resigns from his post. In his resignation statement delivered in Latin he calls himself physically overwhelmed thus unfit to lead the Catholic Church. So long, goodbye.

Of course, it is just one of those weird coincidences, but the Vatican State had been cut off for days prior to Pope Benedict’s resignation from all international banking transactions via SWIFT, just like other evil nations such as Iran and North Korea. Within hours of Benedict XVI’s departure from the Vatican, bound for the residence of Castel Gandolfo outside Rome, Vatican’s connections with SWIFT are reestablished and all banking transactions are possible again. Talk about providential timing.

A new and quite different Pope is elected by the cardinals, certainly, we like to believe, inspired by the Holy Ghost. A Pope that soon, like a broken record, will remind – on a daily basis – Catholics worldwide, but especially Italians that “migrants are not just welcome, they are absolutely welcome”. Now, for a devout Catholic, that must be accepted, and cannot be questioned, even if you have (many) doubts, deep down in your conscience: after all, a Pope is always right, and we, as Catholics, must obey.

Until 2013 the numbers of arrivals from Africa are high, but always below 50.000 a year. 2014 marks the first year of biblical numbers, with over 170.000 arrivals, mostly from sub-Saharan Africans. Since then, the numbers are rising and 2017 is due to pass the 200.000 mark. Never mind that Italy is – literally – running out of places to hold – and feed – these masses. The Pope for many Italians remains the ultimate voice of truth so if THEY come, we must welcome THEM.

History repeats itself. At least in Sicily. In January, 1943 the Casablanca conference in Morocco attended by Churchill and Roosevelt proved to be a turning point of the war. No longer on the defensive, with the Axis forces of Italy and Germany driven out of Africa, Churchill was anxious to attack Hitler’s “fortress Europe” through its “soft underbelly” as he called Italy. And so Operation Husky was decided. The allied forces landed in Sicily in July 1943, which led, in a matter of weeks, to the fall of Mussolini and the surrender of Italy in September, with the country effectively divided in two until the end of the war in April 1945.

As with any carefully prepared military invasion, reliable domestic contacts providing eyes and ears on the ground were essential. Rather than relying on virtually non-existent “resistance groups” like it was going to be the following year for the landing in Normandy, the US and Britain knew they were to take advantage of a different – yet formidable – power: the Mafia.

A number of US intelligence agencies had already been in contact during the war with the New York “underworld” essentially in order to protect the port of New York from highly possible acts of sabotage especially by the Germans.

As Operation Husky received the green light, all possible useful contacts in Sicily were recruited by US intelligence agencies, but the key figure was by no doubt top Mafia mobster Lucky Luciano. Serving a 30 to 50 year sentence in a NY correctional facility since 1936, Luciano provided the US Navy with many Sicilian contacts which proved to be extremely useful in aiding allied forces to establish a secure foothold in Sicily. The all-too-obvious consequence was that the Mafia, on the run since Mussolini’s arrival, was back in power, and it was there to stay.

It must be admitted that Sicily provides an outstanding presence in the Italian government. In January, 2015 the first Sicilian President of Italy, Sergio Mattarella, is elected by the parliament. At that point Sicilians hold the top 3 positions in the Italian government: The President, the President of the Senate (Pietro Grasso, a former prosecutor), and the essential Minister of Interior Angelino Alfano. It needs to be reminded that while the former two are honorific figures and are no decision makers, the Ministry of the Interior is the direct supervisor and coordinator of the whole immigration affaire.


In her whole career, professional and political, she has made no mistery on whose side she stands for, and that side is certainly NOT the average italians who live from paycheck to paycheck (provided they have one) despite the fact that italian taxpayers reward her with over 100.000 euro a year for her position.

Being from an affluent family, she really never had to worry about making ends meet, devoting her whole life to the underpriviliged ones. Just as long as they are NOT italians. We could call her expertise on this whole matter just like the cherry on the cake, or, better stated, the right person in the right place at the right time.

Getting back to Sicily, and speaking of affari (italian for business) immigration -biblical or not- has been a fantastic, unprecedented affare for Sicily as untold billions of euros have kept a steady flow to the island. Sicily has Europe’s biggest migrant reception center, the C.A.R.A. (Centro Accoglienza Richiedenti Asilo), located in Mineo near Catania where many “irregularities” were found out by local prosecutors, leading to the indictment of at least 17 people including a high level politician of the same political party as Angelino Alfano, (NCD).

One of the wistleblowers of the many “irregularities” that were the norm at the C.A.R.A. in Mineo is a middle level police officer from Rome, Daniele Contucci. Contucci has worked for years “in prima linea”, as he states, being among the first ones to receive -and interview clandestine-migrants just unloaded on sicilian shores after having been rescued at sea.

When asked if there’s any hope this biblical invasion will slow down any time soon Contucci is highly skeptic. “Not as long as there’s so much money involved. The profits to be made are just staggering, by far surpassing any other illegal activity”, he says. He admits that -perhaps a bit naive- he thought he could find help and attention to his cause from politicians that rewarded him with lots of shoulder padding and praises but no concrete action of any sort, regardless of the political orientation, leaving him “highly convinced” that despite all the official claims and drama, no party in Italy is willing to do anything serious about this. “It’s the money. There’s simply too much money involved. It’s the kind of money that can buy any politician.”

Last, but by all means not least, the “traghettatori”, italian for ferrymen. Just like Operation Husky,this biblical task could not be accomplished without a fleet – or a flotilla – of well equipped, well payed, well maintained vessels.

Of course they are all humanitarian organizations, and they devote all their lives and their (huge) resources to the safe transporting of migrants to the all too willing and cooperating (or – shall we say – receiving orders from above?)
the Marina Militare, or the Italian Navy. 

One tiny detail: if you want to take “part of the action” as a volunteer, and become a crewmember on one of the NGO’s vessels, get ready for a good series of vaccination shots as a mandatory condition to be taken onboard. As the saying goes: “better be safe than sorry”.

Now the Italian Ministry of Public Health wants “everybody” to get vaccinated in Italy, and that -soon- is probably not going to be an option, especially for schoolchildren. Profitable businesses often go hand in hand. You start with immigration, and you end up with vaccination. It must be the Law of Attraction.

This monumental endeavour of changing Italy’s demographics has found its admirers. One gentleman in particular is willing to open his wallet and shower this gracious flotilla with the insignificant gift of € 1.500 billion.

We wonder what may be behind all this generosity. Perhaps, as the man wants to be remember by future generations of dark skinned italians, as he is getting a little aged and has little time left, he wants to push the final population replacement of Italy to the fullest.

Back in 1943 they were called GI’s. In 2017 they will be called GSB’s (George Soros Boys). Welcome boys, to your future home. The Banana Republic of Italy.

Friday, February 10

TO NATO OR NOT TO NATO? SHAKESPEAREAN DILEMMA

RT- "Montenegro is being dragged into NATO at an accelerated and strengthened rate. Montenegro does not meet in any way the criteria of membership in the alliance, which were developed in the past," Kelin warned, adding the country's economy is currently in deplorable state while its armed forces are comprised of less than 2,000 military servicemen.

"The alliance gains nothing from making Montenegro a member, and it takes on one more security dependent that we already know won't pull its weight," Larison said. He noted that besides the fact that Podgorica adds "almost nothing to the Alliance," its NATO bid does not have broad support at home.

"It doesn't make sense to take in a new alliance member when there is no consensus in that country in favor of belonging to the alliance. 

NATO shouldn't be adding new members in any case, but it certainly shouldn't be taking in a country that doesn't have a majority behind the idea of joining," the US commentator noted.

In his article Hanna cited Senator Rand Paul who has recently raised concerns over a potential provocation against Russia.

"I think that many are referring to this as a provocation to Russia, and also, I think NATO is too big already," Paul said as quoted by the journalist, "Ultimately, joining NATO is not necessarily a benign thing."

"I look forward to welcoming Montenegro into the NATO Alliance and continuing to support its path towards further Euro-Atlantic integration," Senator John McCain said in an official statement commenting on the matter.

In the other side: "If we abstract from some media reports and statements, the attitude of the Russian Federation toward the further expansion of NATO to the east is well known. This attitude is negative," Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters Tuesday. Peskov added that the Kremlin would abstain from commenting on media reports on Montenegro accession to NATO. He said that Moscow has not yet received any official statement on the matter from the Trump administration.

The fate of Montenegro's NATO membership is now in the hands of US President Donald Trump. While some US lawmakers continue to push ahead with Montenegro's accession to the alliance, others regard it as a potential provocation against Russia and argue that the Balkan country adds "almost nothing" to the bloc's security.

US National Security Adviser Michael Flynn may recommend President Donald Trump to back Montenegro's NATO membership, Andrew Hanna of Politico.com reported on Monday, citing a senior administration official.

The journalist noted that twenty-three of 28 NATO member states have already voted in favor of Montenegro's bid. the United States, Canada, Spain, Germany and the Netherlands have yet to announce their decision. 

Meanwhile US lawmakers signaled their willingness to support Montenegro's NATO bid: the Senate Foreign Relations Committee voted in favor of the treaty with the Balkan state on January 11, 2017.

"Because adding a nation to NATO is a treaty measure, support from two-thirds of senators is required to secure passage. But the Constitution delegates the power to negotiate treaties to the president and Trump could refuse to relay the ratification to NATO, indefinitely stalling the process," Hanna highlighted. 

It is no secret that NATO's eastward expansion, including the possible admission of Montenegro to the alliance, remains a sensitive issue for the Kremlin.

Meanwhile, on January 26 Montenegro's Prime Minister Dusko Markovic announced that Podgorica expects to become a full-fledged member of NATO before the next summit of the military alliance. However, national polls, cited by Hanna indicate that only 39.5 percent of Montenegrins favor the country's NATO membership while 39.7 percent oppose it.

Furthermore, according to Andrei Kelin, the head of the Russian Foreign Ministry's European Cooperation Department, as of yet Montenegro has failed to meet the criteria for NATO membership.

"We were exposed to pressure aimed at blocking our accession to NATO, but we have resisted them due to the power of the state, its institutions, democracy and democratic principles," Markovic said in a reference to the opposition boycott, which he called "part of plans to destabilize Montenegro in political terms and disable it to become a member of NATO".

Friday, February 3

MOHAMMED RASHID FORMER ARAFAT MONEYMAN

The late Yasser Arafat’s powerful moneyman MOHAMMED RASHID is the target of the highest-profile Palestinian corruption probe to date, facing allegations he syphoned off millions of dollars in public funds, the chief investigator has said.

Anti-corruption campaigners lauded the case against the shadowy former aide, Mohammed Rashid, as a sign of the maturing of the Palestinian political system, although the probe also appeared to be tinged with political intrigue.

Rashid, who has in the past denied wrongdoing, made veiled threats on a website to disclose purported secrets about the rise to power of Arafat’s successor, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. And Palestinian watchdogs, while praising growing government vigilance about corruption, expressed concern that such investigations are at times being used selectively to settle personal scores.

The tall, dark-haired Rashid left the Palestinian territories after Arafat’s death in November 2004, and his current whereabouts were not immediately known. Rafik Natche, head of the Palestinian Anti-Corruption Commission, said Mohamed Rashid holds business interests in Jordan, Egypt, Montenegro, Iraq and the United Arab Emirates, and that the Palestinian Authority has asked all five countries to freeze his assets and extradite him.

An Iraqi citizen of Kurdish ancestry, Rashid befriended top PLO officials in the 1980s.

From the 1994 establishment of the Palestinian Authority, a self-rule government in parts of the West Bank and Gaza, to Arafat’s death a decade later, Rashid was in charge of many of the Palestinian leader’s financial dealings. The iconic Arafat was known for a frugal lifestyle, but needed large sums to buy loyalty and allowed corrupt practices by those in his inner circle.

It is not known why Arafat put Rashid, a former journalist without formal business training, in charge of most of his business affairs.

Rashid “came to the Palestinian revolution without a penny in his pocket and became a multimillionaire,” Natche told The Associated Press. “Where did he bring his money from? Of course, this is the money of the Palestinian people.”

Natche said Rashid is suspected of having taken millions of dollars out of the Palestinian Investment Fund and the PLO’s treasury, as well as setting up fake companies in his name and in the names of relatives. “The money and the companies disappeared,” Natche said, citing documents.

In comments posted Tuesday on the website Inlightpress, Rashid said he would not respond to the allegations now, but warned that Abbas “made a huge mistake and must suffer the consequences.” He did not elaborate. The website, which is believed to be linked to Rashid, announced in a separate section that it would soon run a series of articles by Rashid about the circumstances of Abbas’ rise to power.

After keeping a low profile for years, Rashid started drawing attention to himself with a series of interviews that the Arab satellite TV station Al Arabiya began broadcasting last week. Rashid told the station he was asked by Palestinian officials in 2008 to provide documents about the investment fund, and that he told them the documents were at the fund’s office. He said he has not been contacted since then.

The first decade of the Palestinian Authority was marked by rampant corruption and official mismanagement. During those years, Rashid “ran a network of financial transactions outside the law and outside the budget,” said Azmi Shuaibi, a leading anti-corruption campaigner in the West Bank.

In 2003, the international community, concerned about millions in foreign aid going to waste, asked Palestinian economist Salam Fayyad to supervise Palestinian Authority spending. Fayyad, now the West Bank-based prime minister, is credited with providing greater transparency. However, for years, little was done to go after those suspected of stealing public funds.

Two years ago, Abbas set up the Anti-Corruption Commission and a special court. So far, the commission has handled 85 cases, including those of two Cabinet ministers who were forced to resign, but the court has not yet handed down any verdicts, Natche said.

The commission filed charges of fraud, embezzlement and money-laundering against Rashid on April 30. On May 8, the court urged Rashid through an announcement in a local newspaper to surrender to Palestinian authorities, Natche said. Rashid will be tried in absentia if he cannot be brought to the Palestinian territories, he added.

Shuaibi praised stepped up efforts to go after government corruption, but expressed concern about the way targets for investigation are being chosen. He noted that Rashid is a longtime associate of former Gaza strongman Mohammed Dahlan, who had a falling-out with Abbas last year after seemingly challenging the president’s leadership. The connection between Dahlan and Rashid created an impetus “to pursue Rashid as well,” Shuaibi said.

“I think the priorities (for investigations) are being set on a personal basis,” said Shuaibi. He said he told Abbas that “we have concerns that the issue is being handled in a way of settling personal scores.” Shuaibi said Abbas told him all suspicions were being investigated.

Officials in Abbas’ office declined comment. Natche said anyone can approach the commission with information about alleged corruption, but acknowledged that most of his leads come from government agencies.

Daoud Kuttab, a Palestinian commentator, said Arafat’s continued popularity made it difficult for investigators for some years to launch a probe against Rashid. But enough time has passed since Arafat’s death, Kuttab said, adding that “there is a strong public sentiment against corruption.”

Thursday, January 12

MONTENEGRO DIRTY DREAM

By L. Todd Wood
With the election of Donald J. Trump as president of the United States, the earth has moved. Things are not going to be the same. Nowhere is this more evident than in Europe and especially within the NATO alliance.

Mr. Trump stated during the campaign, to much derision from the U.S. policy elite, that America’s relationship with NATO needs to fundamentally re-examined. Countries that are not paying their fair share should be confronted. 

The one thing that Mr. Trump is sure to do is to place a clear priority on the needs and security of the United States; the needs of a globalist Europe will come second. Key NATO governments need to do some soul-searching about the role they are playing in the West’s collective defense.

The sovereign debt of the U.S. is now over $20 trillion, on its way to $30 trillion. The president-elect is right — we can no longer afford to defend the world. We especially do not need to be picking fights where our national security and influence are not clearly at stake. 

The world is no longer black and white.

That leads me to my point. Why are we even discussing right now enlarging NATO? Does expansion enhance our national security? Sure, it may allow some countries to sleep better at night, knowing the U.S. nuclear umbrella is overhead. But do we really want to be putting our men and women on the line for some of these countries? Our national treasure? The blood of our soldiers?


The October election, which would have given him another term in power had he not subsequently resigned, was marred by voting irregularities and reports of criminal behavior. Many analysts believe Mr. Djukanovic will continue to pull the levers of power, as Vladimir Putin did while ally Dmitry Medvedev was serving a single term as president, allowing Mr. Putin to return to the throne four years later in 2012.

Wednesday, January 4

FROM BALKANS WITH BLOOD

EU: We’re tracking Balkan arms flow to Syria. The M79-OSA anti-tank weapon, made in the former Yugoslavia, has found its way onto Syria’s battlefields Maja Kocijancic, a spokeswoman for EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini, told OCCRP partner BIRN that the External Action Service was “very active in this field”, adding: “We are looking at the report that you have published.”

The service is already gathering data on illicit weapons found in Syria and Iraq.

Making a Killing: the €1.2 Billion Arms Pipeline to Middle East 

An investigation by OCCRP and BIRN published last week revealed that since 2012 exports of weapons and ammunition to the Middle East worth at least €1.2 billion (US$ 1.34 billion) have been approved by Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, the Czech Republic, Montenegro, Romania, Serbia and Slovakia to four countries supporting Syria’s armed opposition.

The bulk of the deals, totalling €829 million, were made with Saudi Arabia.

The exporting countries granted the licences despite ample evidence that many weapons are being diverted to Syria, ending up with armed opposition as well as Islamist groups accused of widespread abuses.

EU members and those looking to join the union are legally obliged to carry out eight different checks before agreeing to an arms export licence, including assessing the risk that a weapons could be diverted or end up in the hands of a terrorist.

Kocijancic added: “We are aware of the reports on arms transfers from Europe to the Middle East, which allege illicit diversion of weapons to Islamist groups such as Da’esh, Ansar al-Sham or Jabhat Fatah al-Sham, and are looking into this issue.” Da’esh is an Arabic acronym for ISIS that is considered pejorative by the group.

She was unable to confirm whether prospective EU members from the Balkans were likely to be criticised for their Middle East exports in the yearly progress reports due out this autumn, but added: “The fight against organised crime – that includes drugs, arms and people smuggling, is looked at extremely carefully.”

Arms trade and human rights experts said the diversion of these weapons and their use by groups suspected of committing war crimes meant the trade was likely illegal.

The BIRN and OCCRP investigation, published alongside The Guardian, has made international headlines and sparked reactions from governments and senior officials.

Wednesday, July 27

FROM BALKAN WITH BOMBS AND FIRE

FOUR BILLIONS USD OF WEAPONS FLOWING FROM BALKAN TO SYRIA. Jabhat al-Nusra fighters carry assault rifles as they move towards their positions during those last years' offensive. AK47s, machine guns, explosives and more travel along new arms pipeline from Balkans to countries known to supply Syria

Since the escalation of the Syrian conflict in 2012, weapons have been pouring into four countries who supply arms to ongoing conflicts in Syria and Yemen: Saudi Arabia, Jordan, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), and Turkey.

Reporters for the Balkan Investigative Reporting Network (BIRN) and the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP) found that since 2012 exports of weapons and ammunition worth at least 1.2 billion euros have been agreed by Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Serbia, and Romania [link to regional story].

The bulk of the deals, totalling 829 million euros, were made with Saudi Arabia.

The source countries have granted the arms export licences despite ample evidence that many weapons are ending up in Syria, with armed opposition as well as Islamist groups accused of widespread abuses.

Arms trade and human rights experts said the diversion of these weapons and their use by groups suspected of committing war crimes raised questions about the legality of the trade.

Patrick Wilcken, an arms trade researcher for Amnesty International, believes the evidence uncovered by BIRN and the OCCRP points to the “systematic diversion of weapons to armed groups accused of committing serious human rights violations”.


A flawed system

The global arms trade is regulated by three layers of interconnected legislation -- national, European Union (EU) and international – but there are no formal mechanisms to punish those who break the law.

Beyond the blanket ban on exports to embargoed countries, each licence request is dealt with individually. As a result, the lawfulness of the approval hinges on whether countries have carried out due diligence on a range of issues, including the likelihood of the arms being diverted and the impact the export will have on peace and stability.

Roy Isbister, an expert on arms trade laws with the London-based NGO Saferworld, stresses due diligence entails more than simply ticking off a document checklist.

"Due diligence obliges states to not only collect paperwork, but to assess that paperwork. And, in turn, assessing paperwork is itself only part of a proper export risk assessment,” he said.

“States that rely on end-use certificates and the like as sufficient justification for issuing licences are not meeting their legal obligations.”


Member states of the EU are also governed by the legally-binding 2008 Common Position on arms exports, requiring each country to take into account eight criteria when accessing arms exports licence applications, including whether the country respects international human rights, the preservation of “regional peace, security and stability” and the risk of diversion.

As part of their efforts to join the EU, BiH, Serbia and Montenegro have already accepted the measures and amending their national law.

In May 2013, an EU arms embargo on exports to Syria was lifted, under pressure from the governments of France and the UK, to allow supplies to reach the Syrian opposition. However, all three layers of law remained in force, requiring countries to go beyond just checking the paperwork.

Weapons exports are initially assessed based on an end-user certificate, a key document issued by the government of the importing country which guarantees who will use the weapons and that the arms are not intended for re-export.

Authorities in Central and Eastern Europe told BIRN and the OCCRP that they also inserted a clause which requires the buyer to seek approval if they later want to export the goods.

Beyond these initial checks, countries are required to carry out a range of other risk assessments, although conversations with, and statements from, authorities revealed little evidence of that.

Diversions to Syria

A large number of arms exports to the Middle Easter are being diverted to Syria, according to evidence collected by BIRN and the OCCRP from contracts, UN reports, and social media postings showing Eastern-European-made weapons in heavy use in the conflict [link to regional story].

Reporters for BIRN and the OCCRP obtained Saudi contracts and end-user certificates with Serbian and Slovakian arms brokers detailing requests for vast amounts of old Soviet, Warsaw-Pact and Yugoslav era weaponry.


Article 11 of the ATT covers diversion of weapons from their intended recipient, and requires countries to take a series of measures to prevent this.

Although the Treaty suggests that countries may stop the export based on the risk of diversion, it does not clearly state that they must do so. States that discover their exports have been diverted must take “appropriate measures” according to national and international law, although this is not explained further.

The EU Common Position is clearer, however, and dictates that exporters must assess the “existence of a risk that the military technology or equipment will be diverted within the buyer country or re-exported under undesirable conditions”.

Bodil Valero, a Swedish Green Party Member of the European Parliament who was rapporteur for the last EU arms export report, believes this risk assessment is not being carried our properly. “Countries selling arms to Saudi Arabia or the MENA[Middle East-North Africa] region are not carrying out good risk assessments and, as a result, are in breach of EU and national law,” she explained.

Licensing authorities for Croatia, Slovakia and Montenegro all indicated to BIRN and OCCRP that they rely largely on verifying documents such as end-user certificates when approving an exports.

Only the Czech Foreign Ministry directly addressed the issues of human rights violations and diversion of weapons, pointing out that some licences had been turned down on that basis.
In November 2013, Serbia blocked the export of weapons and ammunition worth 20 million euros to Saudi Arabia amid widespread concerns that it would not be used by that country’s expensively-equipped security forces but would, instead, end up in Syria, according to a confidential report from Serbia's Ministry of Defence obtained by BIRN and the OCCRP.

The documents also reveal fears were raised that Belgrade's path to EU membership could be stymied and its relationship with long-time ally Russia damaged if the deal went ahead.

Yet just over a year later, and after the adoption of the ATT, Serbia approved exports of arms and ammunition worth 135 million euros to Saudi Arabia.

Asked about Serbia’s volte-face on the exports, Stevan Nikcevic, the state secretary at the Ministry of Trade responsible for approving arms export licences, said that the ministries that had blocked the earlier sale “didn’t have the same concerns” now.

The arms export licences to Saudi Arabia were approved because they would have a “positive impact” on the “operation of Serbia’s defence industry”, said the Serbian Ministry of Defence, one of the ministries consulted as part of the licensing process, in a written response to BIRN and the OCCRP.

While economic factors cannot be taken in consideration, Swedish MEP Valero believes they weigh heavily on the decisions made by countries in Central and Eastern Europe.

“They want to have people working in the arms industry with jobs, of course,” she said.

A UN Human Rights report, published in March 2015, also noted that Croatia, despite its international obligations, was showing “a disturbing lack of concern about the re-transfer and end use of weapons to countries including Syria and Iraq.”

Darko Kihalic, the head of the arms licensing department at the Croatian Ministry of the Economy, told BIRN and the OCCRP that there is little more that Croatia can do apart from checking the paperwork.

Saudi Arabia is not a “blacklisted” country, he said, adding: “Are there misuses? There probably are.”

Valero, however, underlined: “In the end it is always the [exporting] government that has responsibility. They take the decision and they have to be accountable for these decisions.”

Trail of atrocities

Under Article 6 of the ATT, the sale of weapons or ammunition is prohibited if the exporter has prior “knowledge” these will be used in war crimes or attacks directed against civilians.

A legal opinion on the sale of UK weapons to Saudi Arabia, prepared by London’s Matrix Chambers in December 2015, looked at what “knowledge” meant in this circumstance. It found that the ATT’s Article 6 would be breached if the exporter “was aware, or should normally have been aware” that they would be used in attacks directed against “civilians/civilian objects or in the commission of war crimes”.

Article 7 requires governments to assess the risk of the arms being used to commit or facilitate a serious breach of international humanitarian law or terrorist act and whether they “would undermine peace and security”.

If, despite mitigating measures, there is an “overriding risk of any of the negative consequences” the sale must be blocked.

While forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad and the Islamic State are acknowledged by groups such as a Human Rights Watch to have committed by far the most widespread atrocities, other moderate and Islamist opposition groups supported by the US and Gulf states have also been the subject of serious allegations, including claims of perpetrating war crimes.

Saudi Arabia-backed Jaysh Al-Islam, a powerful Islamist group, is alleged to have carried out executions, chemical weapon attacks and to have used caged prisoners as human shields, according to credible press reports and cases documented by Human Rights Watch

In May 2016, Amnesty International accused Fatah Halab, an alliance of fighters in Aleppo including western-backed moderates and Saudi-supported Islamists that recently received Serbian heavy machine guns, of "repeated indiscriminate attacks that may amount to war crimes” against a Kurdish neighbourhood.

Magdalena Mughrabi, of Amnesty International’s Middle East and North Africa programme, called on Turkey, the Gulf states and “other backers” to halt weapons transfers to rebels.

Moderate forces under the Free Syrian Army (FSA) umbrella, which have received military equipment from the US, have been implicated in human rights abuses, including shelling civilian areas and targeting civilian offices with a Yugoslav M79 rocket-launcher, according to Human Rights Watch.The targeting civilian areas and property are both reasons to block an arms export deal under Article 6 of the ATT.

This type of weapon was part of a batch of arms transported to Jordan in 2012 and 2013 and later transferred to Syria.

“I don't think anyone is fighting clean in Syria at the moment,” said Hadeel Al-Shalchi, a researcher and expert on the Syrian conflict at Human Rights Watch.

“On the government side [there are] airstrikes on hospitals, on marketplaces, on large civilian infrastructure areas. And from the armed opposition groups, what they do is fire mortars, locally made rockets, artillery ... into environments like Aleppo city.”

Amnesty’s Mughrabi added: “The international community must not turn a blind eye to the mounting evidence of war crimes by armed opposition groups in Syria. The fact that the scale of war crimes by government forces is far greater is no excuse for tolerating serious violations by the opposition.”

Way forward

While no formal sanctions mechanism exists to punish countries that flout their international obligations, Valero argues that non-governmental organisations and individuals can take legal action against governments if they believe that arms export laws are being broken.

In England, the Campaign Against Arms Trade has launched a judicial review against the British government for its continued exports to Saudi Arabia.

It alleges that the UK’s Department of Business, Innovation and Skills broke national, EU and ATT arms export laws as there is a clear risk these arms could be used by Saudi forces in Yemen in breach of international humanitarian law.

The British government argues that its weapons exports system is among the most robust in the world. The case is ongoing.

MEP Valero said that if action in national courts fails, other options exist.

“I think these [Central and Eastern European] countries could be taken to the European Court of Justice,” she said.

In March of this year, the Netherlands became the first EU country to stop arms exports to Saudi Arabia, citing mass executions and civilian deaths in Yemen.