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on sundays, ordinary day-to-day news seems to sag (antiwar.com have stopped even bothering to do sundays)

This is really just a classical limited hangout, despite the title. It relies upon this paper by George Kiourktsoglou, Lecturer in Maritime Security and former Royal Dutch Shell strategist, and Dr Alec Coutroubis, Acting Head at the Faculty of Engineering and Science, published by Maritime Security Review in March – RB

Britain’s secret ties to governments, firms behind ISIS oil sales
Nafeez Ahmed, Insurge, Jul 31 2015 (abridged version)

Key allies in the UKUSA-led war on ISIS are covertly financing the terrorist movement, according to senior political sources in the region. UKUSA oil companies are heavily invested in the murky geopolitical triangle sustaining ISIS’ black market oil sales. The Kurdish Regional Government (KRG) in Iraq and Turkish military intelligence have both supported secret ISIS oil smuggling operations and even supplied arms to the terror group, according to Kurdish, Iraqi and Turkish officials. One British oil company in particular, Genel Energy, is contracted by the KRG to supply oil for a major Kurdish firm accused of facilitating ISIS oil sales to Turkey. The Kurdish firm has close ties to the Iraqi Kurdish government. Genel operates in the KRG with the backing of the British government, and is also linked to a British parliamentary group with longstanding connections to both the British and KRG oil industries. The relationship between British and Kurdish energy companies, and senior British politicians, raises questions about conflicts of interest, especially in the context of trhe GWOT which is currently supposed to be targeting ISIS, not financing it.

One of ISIS’ most significant sources of revenue is oil smuggling. ISIS controls approximately 60% of Syria’s oil, and seven major oil-producing assets in Iraq. Using a carefully cultivated network of intermediaries and ‘middlemen’ in the Kurdish region of Iraq, as well as in Turkey, ISIS has been able to produce a phenomenal 45 kb/d, raking in as much as $3m/day in cash by selling the oil at well below market prices. But the sheer scale and impunity of this oil smuggling network has caused local politicians to ask whether certain officials in the KRG and Turkey are turning a blind eye to these operations. Iraqi, Kurdish and Turkish officials have accused both the KRG and Turkish governments of deliberately allowing some of these smuggling operations to take place. Tensions between the KRG and Iraq’s central government in Baghdad are escalating over who controls production and revenues from oil fields within the Kurdish region. Kurdish officials see the oil within the Kurdish-controlled territory of Iraq as a means to seek greater autonomy, if not potentially total independence, from Baghdad, whereas the Iraqi government seeks to ensure it retains sovereign control over all sales from its own oil fields, which include those in the KRG. Those tensions reached a crescendo when the KRG began unilaterally selling oil by exporting it to Turkey, bypassing Baghdad.

KRG and Turkish authorities vehemently deny any role in intentionally facilitating ISIS oil sales. Both governments have taken measures to crackdown on smuggling operations, and US and UK authorities work closely with the KRG to identify ISIS smuggling routes. Despite KRG arrests of Kurdish ‘middlemen’ involved in the ISIS black market oil sales, evidence continues to emerge that these measures are largely piecemeal, and have failed to address corruption at the highest levels. According to a senior source in the Iraqi government’s ruling Islamic Dawa Party, Pindosi and Iraqi authorities have developed “significant intelligence confirming that elements of the KRG have tacitly condoned ISIS oil sales on the black market.” The source, which has direct access to top Iraqi government officials, said that the KRG had originally seen the ISIS invasion of Iraq as an opportunity to consolidate Kurdish control over disputed territory, especially the oil-rich region of Kirkuk. The Kurds had not, however, anticipated how powerful ISIS’ presence in the region would become. In the early period of the invasion last year, he said:

Elements of the KRG and Peshmerga militia directly facilitated secret ISIS oil smuggling through the Kurdish province. This was known to the Pindosis, which shared intelligence on the matter with the Iraqi government in Baghdad.

The issue inflamed tensions between Baghdad and the KRG, contributing to efforts by Hussein al-Shahrestani, then Iraq’s deputy prime minister for energy affairs, to crackdown on independent Kurdish oil exports. His successor, new oil minister Adel Abd’ul-Mehdi, was brought in through a reshuffle in September last year that was engineered under Pindosi diplomatic pressure. Unlike Shahrestani, the source said, Abd’ul-Mehdi has a much more conciliatory approach to the Kurdish oil question, one which also happens to suit the interests of UKUSA investors in the KRG:

This has meant that Baghdad has also been much more lax on evidence of ISIS oil smuggling through the KRG.

The source confirmed that, under mounting Pindo pressure:

KRG authorities have taken serious steps to curb the illegal smuggling on behalf of ISIS. But the smuggling still continues, although at a more restrained level, with the support of elements of KRG’s ruling parties, who profit from the black market oil sales.

Turkey also plays a crucial role in the ISIS oil smuggling operations according to the Iraqi source. As the end-point through which much of this oil reaches global markets, Turkish authorities have routinely turned a blind eye to the IS-run black market. “The Turks have an acrimonious relationship with the Pindosis,” he claimed, but he admitted that Pindo intelligence is familiar with Turkey’s role, saying:

Pindosi intelligence is monitoring many of these smuggling operations in minute detail. Some of this intelligence has been passed on to us. The Pindosis know what is going on. But Erdogan and Obama don’t have a great relationship. Erdogan basically does what he likes, and Pindostan has to lump it.

The allegations have been confirmed by Turkish government officials and parliamentarians. In particular, a source with extensive connections to the Turkish political establishment, including the office of the Prime Minister, said that Turkey’s support for the rebels began long before the emergence of ISIS, and was pivotal in the group’s meteoric rise to power. Turkey has been integral to the region’s ‘moderate’ rebel training schemes, supervised by Western military intelligence agencies. But, said the source.

Turkey is playing a double game with its Syria strategy. Turkey has sponsored Islamist groups in Syria, including ISIS, since the beginning, and continues to do so. The scale of ISIS smuggling operations across the Turkish-Syrian border is huge, and much of it is facilitated with the blessings of Erdogan and Davitoglu, who see the Islamists as the means to expand the Turkish foothold in the region.

Asked how this fits with recent Turkish operations to shut down ISIS smuggling operations and target ISIS strongholds across the border, the source described the actions as too little, too late. He said:

These actions fit with Erdogan’s strategy of expansion. We are not trying to shut down the infrastructure of ISIS. We are attacking it selectively.

The ISIS oil smuggling route, which encompasses the KRG and ends up at the Turkish port of Ceyhan, was recently investigated by two British academics at the University of Greenwich. The paper by George Kiourktsoglou, Lecturer in Maritime Security and former Royal Dutch Shell strategist, and Dr Alec Coutroubis, Acting Head at the Faculty of Engineering and Science, attempted to identify suspicious patterns in the illicit oil trade. Their extraordinary study, published by Maritime Security Review in March, examined the international route used by ISIS, based on “a string of trading hubs” comprising the localities of Sanliura, Urfa, Hakkari, Siirt, Batman, Osmaniya, Gaziantep, Sirnak, Adana, Kahramarmaras, Adiyaman and Mardin. “The string of trading hubs ends up in Adana, home to the major tanker shipping port of Ceyhan.” By comparing spikes in tanker charter rates from Ceyhan with a timeline of ISIS activities, the University of Greenwich analysis identified significant correlations between the two. The researchers write:

Whenever ISIS fights in the vicinity of an area hosting oil assets, the exports from Ceyhan promptly spike. This may be attributed to an extra boost given to crude oil smuggling, with the aim of immediately generating additional funds. While the evidence is still inconclusive at this stage, there are strong hints to an illicit supply chain that ships ISIS crude from Ceyhan to global markets. Since the launch of the ISIS oil venture in summer 2014, tanker charter rates from Ceyhan recoupled up to a degree with the ones from the rest of the Middle East. Though it’s impossible to be categorical, primary research including interviews with informed sources indicates that this was most likely the result of boosted demand for ultra-cheap smuggled crude, available for loading” from the Turkish port.

Kiourktsoglu and Coutroubis call for “further research” on ISIS criminal ventures which “can potentially integrate it within the global economy.” The academics have previously given evidence before the parliamentary foreign affairs select committee regarding maritime security off the Somalian coast. Their study also highlights failures in the Pindosi military approach to the ISIS oil operations. Although they commend how Pindo, Turkish and Gulf air raids have “curtailed” ISIS’ “oil cashflows” by destroying some “oil manufacturing facilities,” this has not gone far enough. They report:

“… extraction wells in the area of bombardments have yet to be targeted by Pindostan or the air assets of its allies, a fact that can be readily attributed to the at times ‘toxic’ politics in the Middle East. Despite large convoys of trucks transporting ISIS oil through government-controlled areas in Syria, Iraq and Turkey, allied Pindosi air raids do not target the truck lorries out of fear of provoking a backlash from locals. As a result, the transport operations are being run efficiently, taking place most of times in broad daylight.

Evidence already in the public record corroborates the allegations of the Iraqi and Turkish sources, showing that corruption is endemic at both the origin and end-points of the ISIS smuggling route. Informed observers inside and outside Turkey have accused the Turkish government of turning a blind eye to the smuggling of oil across the Syrian-Turkish border in its commitment to bringing down the Assad regime. Prosecutor and witness testimony in Turkish courts revealed that in late 2013 and 2014, Turkish military intelligence had supplied arms to areas in Syria under Islamist rebel control, contributing directly to the rise of ISIS. Turkish opposition MP Ali Ediboglu last year said that some $800m worth of ISIS oil had been smuggled into Turkey. He also said that over a thousand Turkish nationals were helping foreign fighters join ISIS in Syria and Iraq through Turkish territory. Both, he alleged, are occurring with the knowledge and involvement of Turkish military intelligence.

In Jul 2014, Iraqi officials revealed that when ISIS had begun selling oil extracted from the northern province of Salah’ud-Din, “the Kurdish peshmerga forces stopped the sale of oil at first, but later allowed tankers to transfer and sell oil.” Three months later, a KRG Interior Ministry document leaked to the Kurdish media outlet Rudaw showed that a former opposition MP, Burhan Rashid, had accused KRG institutions of facilitating the flow of funds and arms to ISIS militants in Iraq. Rashid is recorded as saying:

A Kurdish political party in Erbil has supplied the ISIS militants with weapons and ammunition in exchange for oil.

The document revealed that the KRG chief public prosecutor had secretly prepared a lawsuit against Rashid for making the allegations. The lawsuit, which apparently went nowhere, was an obvious effort to silence criticism. By January, however, an investigative committee led by the KRG interior minister and natural resources minister had largely corroborated Rashid’s allegations. Kurdish parliamentary sources familiar with the final report of the committee, which remains secret, told Rudaw the report had confirmed:

… a number of officials from the ruling Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP), the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) and the Peshmerga have been involved in the illegal trade.

Half a year later, the identities of officials investigated remain undisclosed, and no one has been charged, tried or sentenced. The KRG’s UK office did not respond to a request for comment. Instead, a couple of months after the committee had reached its conclusions, evidence emerged that the Nokan Group, a major Kurdish company with close ties to the KRG, had been directly facilitating ISIS oil sales. In a letter to the Nokan Group, Mark Wallace, a former Pindo ambassador to the UN under Bush 43, wrote in the letter dated Mar 20 2015:

There are credible reports that some Kurdish entities are in fact facilitating the ISIS-related oil trade. Specifically, certain Kurdish companies are reportedly contracted to transport refined fuel from the ISIS-controlled Baiji refinery, north of Tikrit, Iraq, for delivery throughout the Kurdish region by Sulaymaniyah province authorities in Iraqi Kurdistan, in the north-eastern region of Iraq. Trucks owned or operated by Meer Soma, a subsidiary of the Nokan Group, are being used to transport refined petroleum products from ISIS-controlled refineries to Kurdish entities in or near Kirkuk. According to the Kurdish press, Meer Soma is among several Nokan-controlled dummy companies operating on behalf of the group, to avoid public association with the parent firm.

According to a 2012 country report by the Paris-based business intelligence agency MarcoPolis, the Nokan Group is among the largest companies in the province, and “has interests” in Meer Soma. In 2014, the same year that photographs of Meer Soma tankers transporting ISIS oil to Kurdish refineries were published online, the Nokan subsidiary’s website was deleted. Ambassador Wallace’s letter has generated little more than silence. No response from the Nokan Group was received by Wallace. The Nokan Group could not be reached for comment. Copies of the letter were sent to relevant Congressional committees, as well as John Smith, Acting Director of the Pindo Treasury Dept’s Office of Foreign Assets Control. The Treasury did not respond to queries about what was done to investigate the allegations. Even a spokesperson for Ambassador Wallace’s so-called Counter Extremism Project, on behalf of which the letter was sent, declined to comment when asked to clarify the follow-up from Pindo authorities.

The Nokan Group is a conglomerate of companies owned and controlled by the Iraqi Kurdish political party, the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK), which is one of the KRG’s ruling parties alongside the majority KDP. >The Kurdistan Tribune reports that Nokan is run from the general management office of the PUK in Sulaymani district. The newspaper estimates that, accounting for its 23 subsidiary companies, the Nokan Group’s net worth approaches roughly $4b to $5b, many multiples larger than its declared value. The Tribune points out that the PUK business model is representative of private enterprise across the KRG, rife with corruption and nepotism, largely for the enrichment of political elites and their allies. The paper observes:

The economic model in Kurdistan monopolises the market for the benefit of a few and poisons the environment for small and medium enterprises.

A lengthy report in The Nation found that the KRG’s patronage system was alienating and disenfranchising much of the population:

Many of the most profitable companies, such as those controlling construction projects, are owned by a Barzani or Talabani.

The FT noted:

But beyond the gleaming new suburbs, five-star hotels and flashy cars lies an ancient city in which critics say corruption remains a problem and the lines dividing government and business are unhealthily blurred.

Until last year, the PUK’s leader Jalal Talabani was President of Iraq. His son, Qubad Talabani, is currently Deputy Prime Minister in the KRG. Previously, the latter served as the KRG’s representative in Pindostan. In both capacities, Qubad has played a key role in developing commercial relationships with the West, especially concerning oil. Jalal Talabani’s other son, Pavel, oversees the KRG’s anti-terror squad in Sulaymani, which is run by PUK member Lahur Sheikh Jangi. The elder Talabani’s sister-in-law, Shanaz Ibrahim Ahmed, is the PUK representative to the UK, responsible for media relations as well as for the finances of the Nokan Group.

Qubad Talabani, incumbent KRG deputy PM, is slated to speak at the Kurdistan-Iraq Oil & Gas Conference to be held in London this November. The conference, organised by British firm CWC Group in partnership with the joint PUK-KDP government, is sponsored by a number of energy corporations including Exxon Mobil, Chevron, DNO, Gulf Keystone Petroleum, and the Qaiwan Group. The Qaiwan Group, among the London conference’s platinum sponsors, is contracted to the KRG’s Ministry of Energy to design, construct and operate planned expansions to the Bazian oil refinery under a Power Purchase Agreement (PPA). The current ‘phase three’ expansion, due for completion by 2018, aims to lift the refinery’s capacity from 34 to 80 kb/d. The Bazian refinery is, however, owned and controlled by WZA Petroleum, another subsidiary of the PUK’s Nokan Group, dominated by the Talabani family. WZA Petroleum’s president is Parwen Babakir, in which capacity she is the principal owner of the Bazian refinery. Babakir is also the Chairman of the Nokan Group, and is in charge of the PUK’s oil and gas portfolio. She was previously appointed Minister of Industry in the Sulaymani district by Talabani from 2003 to 2007. She did not respond to questions concerning the Nokan Group’s alleged facilitation of IS oil sales. While KRG government officials and their relatives are directly profiting from lucrative oil and gas contracts brokered by the KRG, the same officials who are responsible for anti-terrorism in the Sulaymani province oversee the Nokan Group, which is implicated in facilitating ISIS oil smuggling.

A British energy company with strong backing from the UK political establishment operates the oil field supplying the Nokan-owned Bazian refinery. The refinery, owned by the Nokan Group whose trucks were seen transporting IS oil through the Kurdish province earlier this year, is supplied from the KRG’s Taq Taq field. The oil field produces a total of around 100 kb/d, most of which is shipped to local refineries. British-Turkish firm Genel Energy has a 45% stake in the Taq Taq field. Genel Energy was formed from a $2.1b merger in 2011 between a UK firm, Vallares PLC, and a Turkish company, Genel Enerji. The firm is run by Tony Hayward, a former CEO of British Petroleum (BP). Asked about Genel’s position on working with institutions allegedly involved in financing ISIS terrorism, Andrew Benbow, spokesperson for the Anglo-Turkish company, stated:

These are all questions to be asked to the KRG rather than ourselves.

According to the final report of the House of Commons Select Committee on Foreign Affairs’ inquiry into the British government’s policy toward the KRG, published in Jan 2015, Genel is the only major British investor in the province. The report noted that the Kurdistan region holds an estimated 45 billion barrels of oil, in the same league as Libya and Nigeria, and a further 110 trillion cu ft of gas, placing it around tenth or twelfth in the world for reserves. The KRG aims to export as much as 2mb/d by 2020, a prospect of huge interest to Western companies, according to the report, including “Exxon, Chevron, Repsol, Total, the local giant KAR, and the British-Turkish company, Genel Energy.” Just a month earlier, David Cameron’s then-Energy Minister Matthew Hancock told the 4th Kurdistan-Iraq Oil & Gas Conference in Erbil:

Iraq has a critical role to play in meeting the world’s future demand for oil.Pindosi oil production is forecasted to peak in 2020; thereafter, the world is expected to become ever more dependent on Iraqi supply. Iraqi oil production will treble to over 8 mb/d by 2040. Reserves in Kurdistan play a significant role in this increase. The region is not only thought to be one of the largest untapped areas of oil in the world, but also has significant gas potential.

Genel Energy is positioned to profit massively from increased Kurdish output, bar an oil shock or other such wild card. Genel’s president, Mehmet Sepil, told the 2014 conference that his firm planned to play the lead role in exploiting 11 trillion cu ft of gas in the Kurdish province. A year earlier, the All-Party Parliamentary Group on the Kurdistan Region of Iraq released a report after its fact-finding mission to the province, recommending that the Foreign Affairs Select Committee undertake this inquiry. As part of that fact-finding mission, British Conservative MP Nadhim Zahawi, who is co-chair of the group, visited the Taq Taq oil field being run by Genel Energy in Nov 2013. Zahawi held shares in Genel Energy, according to the House of Commons Register of Interests, which shows that he declared his relationship to Genel in Jun 2013. According to Zahawi, he sold his shares in Genel on Apr 30 2014.

Later in 2013, Zahawi was appointed to the Prime Minister’s Policy Board, with special responsibility for business and the economy, a post he still holds. By Jun 2014, Zahawi was appointed as a member of the Foreign Affairs Select Committee, and played a key role in its inquiry into government policy. Zahawi regarding the Ambassador Wallace’s letter concerning the Nokan Group:

These are obviously very serious allegations which I was not previously aware of and that were not submitted to the Select Committee’s inquiry.

He explained that the committee would investigate ISIS funding sources in a further inquiry. He denied knowledge of the KRG’s internal investigation into support for ISIS terrorism, as well as the allegations concerning Genel’s relationship to Nokan, explaining:

As an ex retail shareholder, I have no more knowledge of the details of their operation than any other retail share holder or member of the public. I would suggest that you submit your evidence and questions to Genel directly.

The APPG on Kurdistan is intimately connected to both the PUK-KDP run government and Western oil interests in the province. Gary Kent, who is Director of Labour Friends of Iraq, is paid directly by Gulf Keystone Petroleum, which is heavily invested in KRG oil assets, to provide secretariat services for the APPG. The KRG and its UK arm also provide “administrative services” for the APPG, including “dinners for parliamentarians,” annual receptions, and funding group delegations to the province. Describing the APPG on Kurdistan’s findings in Jan 2014, Vice Chair Robert Halfon, who is now a Minister without portfolio in Cameron’s new cabinet and Deputy Chairman of the Tory Party, told the House of Commons:

Across the Kurdistan region, business is flourishing … and people are keen on British and foreign investment. Privatisation continues apace and huge property complexes are being built. There are significant oil and gas reserves, which, unusually in these parts, are used for the benefit of the country, not salted away in corruption. As I pointed out in an early-day motion (tabled with Zahawi and others), the KRG can become an important ally in guaranteeing the UK’s future energy security.

In Jan 2015, as the UK parliamentary Foreign Affairs Select Committee released its inquiry report, Zahawi was back in the KRG as part of an official UK trade delegation led by Mayor of London Boris Johnson, recently appointed to the Prime Minister’s political cabinet. Although the KRG launched its investigation of ISIS terrorism financing by Kurdish officials while the British parliamentary inquiry was still ongoing, the inquiry report makes no mention of it, nor does it acknowledge that the KRG investigation had confirmed the allegations nearly a month before publication. The parliamentary committee did not come across such allegations, nor had any such information ever been submitted to the inquiry, Zahawi said. The 2015 UK parliamentary report repeatedly justifies calls for cementing British-KRG ties due to the KRG’s role as a reliable “partner in the fight against terrorism.” While the parliamentary report goes to pains to emphasise the British government’s formal position in favour of a unified Iraq, it also leans heavily toward a federal solution, granting the KRG considerable autonomy, based on its ability to exploit oil and gas resources in the province. Pointing to the UK Foreign Secretary’s recommendation of “devo max” (maximum devolution) as the best possible model of democratic governance in Iraq, the report recommends that the British government should be prepared for “the possible consequences of Iraq’s break-up,” stating:

The KRG’s increased self-governance or even independence is itself rational, given its economic potential and demonstrable capacity for effective self-governance, and also understandable given its recent history. While the move to independence is not imminent, it is a medium-term possibility, depending in large part on the Kurdistan Region’s energy export strategy, for which the UK Government should be prepared.

In its reporting on Zahawi’s visit to KRG oil fields run by Genel Energy, The Independent observed:

There is no suggestion of any impropriety in relation to the Kurdistan APPG.

But irrespective of parliamentary rules, the APPG’s brazen role in facilitating British oil and gas interests in the region is hardly a secret. The APPG declares on its website:

We have taken the detailed reports from our delegations to UK ministers and other groups to promote the message that Kurdistan is open to business and to boost British connections in trade, culture and other fields. This has helped change the UK’s approach to Kurdistan … The group’s reports helped overcome that erroneous assumption and persuaded the UK Government to send its first official mission to the Erbil Trade Fair, and more British companies are expected at next month’s fair.

Like many of the other interests involved, the UK Foreign Office simply failed to respond when questioned about the British government’s relationship with regional authorities and firms implicated in the facilitation of IS black market oil sales. Genel Energy CEO Tony Hayward has previously spoken out in defence of the KRG’s decision to ask the company to truck exports of crude oil from the Taq Taq field to Turkey. The Anglo-Turkish firm is receiving payments for these exports directly from the KRG, rather than from the Baghdad government, which had condemned them as illegal Until her resignation earlier this year, former Labour MP Meg Munn was chair of the APPG on Kurdistan alongside Zahawi. A former Foreign Office minister under Tony Blair, she is Vice-Chair of the Westminster Foundation for Democracy, an “executive non-departmental public body” sponsored by the Foreign Office that promotes parliamentary institutions abroad. The WFD has been contracted for many years by the Foreign Office and UK Dept for International Development to augment the formal mechanisms of democracy in Iraq and the KRG. Yet an independent review of the organisation’s work commissioned by the FCO in 2010 concluded:

WFD’ own internal records provide little evidence that the organisation is having significant, long-term and sustainable impact. Rather, the purpose of party support strictly defined is not to show demonstrable improvements in the functioning of democracy … [but it] allows the parties to engage in activity that would be impossible for the FCO to undertake … designed to help their ideological counterparts in other countries (to facilitate) access to, and influence over parties in developing democracies, (and thus to support) the UK government’s diplomatic objectives.

Thus, the WFD ultimately functions to promote British government interests. Its constitution stipulates that all 14 members of its Board of Governors must be appointed by the British Foreign Secretary, with eight of them nominated by Westminster political parties. One WFD Annual Report concedes:

WFD offers the FCO and HMG … a focus on political work which the FCO or the Government could not or would not wish to undertake directly … where direct British government support could be interpreted as foreign interference.

Despite its self-description as a “neutral convener” between demands for national unity and federalisation, the WFD’s entire national Iraq programme is run from the KRG capital, Erbil. In Iraqi Kurdistan, for the WFD this has meant, according to the APPG’s 2011 report, promoting “a democratic market economy” safe for foreign capital penetration:

The menu includes a smaller but smarter state, an active civil society, a free and professional media system and more private businesses … Kurdistan is exploiting its oil and gas riches commendably and ahead of schedule through making good use of the private sector … European energy security will gain from their ability to supply gas through the projected southern energy corridor for a century. This deserves UK recognition and support.

The eagerness of UKUSA oil companies to exploit Iraqi Kurdish resources, however, raises urgent questions as to whether UKUSA government support for the KRG-Turkish oil nexus is undermining the war on ISIS, if not fuelling the terror group. Neither of the governments appear to be willing to answer these questions.

really striking that ban doesn’t have a problem with this

Ban Ki-Moon describes Turkish airstrikes against PKK as self-defense
Majeed Gly, Rudaw, Aug 1 2015

NEW YORK — UN Sec-Gen Ban Ki-moon in a press conference on Wednesday described Turkey’s recent air campaign outside its borders as self-defense and in accordance with the organization’s charter. He said:

This action taken by Turkey was done in accordance with the UN Charter, as a way of exercising their self-defence. That is what has been explained to me by Prime Minister Davutoglu.

Ban Ki-moon who spoke after a UNSC meeting on Syria, said that Turkey’s actions fall within chapter 51 of the UN Charter that grants its member states the right of self-defense. Meanwhile, in response to a Rudaw question on his most recent phone conversation with Davutoglu, Ban said:

I would strongly advise and urge the parties concerned to resolve all these pending issues through dialogue.

Turkish fighter jets have been bombing PKK bases in the mountains of northern Iraq for a week, after Ankara agreed to join the anti-ISIS coalition. Up until Wednesday, the UN kept a neutral position on the recent Turkish-PKK conflict, calling through its spokesperson for a “return to dialogue.” Turkey has also sent a formal letter to members of the UNSC, detailing how the airstrikes are the practice of self-defense against ISIS and the PKK.

putin reveals himself to be nothing more than an uninformed, impotent asshole

The Russian Central Bank owns 52.32% of Sberbank shares. But this is the unaccountable and ridiculously arrogant Nabiullina. Gref is also a member of the Council of JP Morgan Chase, apparently – RB

Herman Gref: “Sberbank will never enter in the Crimea until it is Ukrainian”
Argument-sn.ru, Aug 1 2015

In an interview on German radio station WDR 5 with Udo Prenzel, head of Media Training at the Deutsche Welle Akademie, the head of Russian Sberbank Herman Gref said that his bank does not intend entering the Crimean Peninsula, despite the latter being within the Russian Federation. Replying to the question from WDR, whether the Russian Sberbank would open its branches in the Russian Crimea, Herman Gref said:

A: Absolutely not. The Crimea is part of the territory of Ukraine, from the point of view of the international financial community, and we adhere to that position. In simple terms, for Sberbank, the Crimea is not Russia.
Q: How can we understand your position on Crimea, when you have branches of the bank in South Ossetia and Abkhazia? Because from the point of view of the West, these territories are Georgian.
A: That’s a slightly different situation. I would not like to comment on it.
Q: Well, then… Sberbank has plans to open offices on the Peninsula in the future?
A: Currently, we have no such plans.
Q: So, from your point of view, or rather from the point of view of Russia, the decision of Sberbank can be attributed to the imposition of sanctions against the people of Crimea for their choice in favor of the Russian Federation? I’m sure you will agree, it looks pretty strange to see a Russian Bank involved in sanctions against Russian citizens, don’t you think?
A: On this subject, we could have a long discussion. I would not want to take up your time and my own with it.
Q: Well… Thank you for the interview, and all the best.
A: Goodbye.

Sberbank refused to work in the Crimea
Lenta.ru, Jul 28 2015

Sberbank will not work in the Crimea and Sevastopol. During the annual shareholders’ meeting, the head of the credit institution, Herman Gref, informed the correspondent of Lenta.ru. “This is intolerable from the point of view of sanctions. We will not work in these areas,” said Gref. The annual meeting of shareholders of the bank took place on May 29. On the agenda were two issues: the extension of the powers of Gref and the payment of dividends to shareholders. The shareholders decided to leave Herman Gref as President of Sberbank until Nov 2019. In addition, the dividend was set at 45 cents per share, 7% less than last year. During the meeting, Gref noted that 2014 was a very difficult year for the bank. Under the sanctions are Sberbank, VTB, Gazprombank, Vnesheconombank, Russian Agricultural Bank and Bank of Moscow. Credit agencies are unable to raise funds on the Western financial markets. Crimea became part of Russia in Mar 2014. This decision was supported in a referendum about 96% of Crimea’s residents who participated in the voting. Then sanctions were imposed against Russia under which were included the banking sector.

Vladimir Putin: “Crimea is ours, and not ours?”
Optimist, Aug 1 2015

Vladimir Putin at a meeting with the head of Sberbank German Gref, in discussing the situation in the banking sector asked the question:

How did it happen that the bank participates in the sanctions against the Crimea, Russian citizens?

To the question of the President of Russia, the head of Sberbank Herman Gref said that in the case of entering the bank on the Peninsula, Sberbank will lose lending in the West and therefore suffer some losses. Putin continued:

So if tomorrow the West will impose sanctions against the Urals, Siberia and the Far East of Russia, Sberbank will no longer service these areas?

The reply of Herman Gref, the radio station “Russian News service” does not report.

Gref was actually Economics Minister of the RF before he left to join Sberbank. There is one bizarre report of him at a presser in 2012, authenticated by a YouTube video:

At the St Petersburg economic forum, Sberbank hosted a business breakfast, which was addressed by its head, Herman Gref. At the breakfast, a heated debate broke out, during which Gref expressed his concerns about the fact that the power might be in the hands of citizens, and then launched into a discussion about the Kabbalah, Taoism and Buddhism, writes business-gazeta.ru. Gref expressed concerns on the fact that as soon as people will understand the basis of their own existence, “it will become extremely hard to manage them, manipulate them.” As it turned out, the era of pervasive Internet, too, scares the head of “Sberbank”, who said:

You say terrible things! Do you propose to transfer power, in fact, into the hands of the population? How to live, how to manage such a society? Where all have equal access to information, all have the opportunity to judge directly, to get the uncut information, not filtered through the government analysts, political scientists, and a huge car lowered on the heads of the media? In such a society to live? Your ways of thinking are frightening to me, to be honest.

During his speech, Herman Gref offered some historical and religious insights, remembering first the history of Buddhism, and then proceeded to Confucius, who he said started out as a Democrat and ended with the establishment of the doctrine of the separation of society into castes. Taoists, Gref continued, kept their teachings secret for centuries, because they realized that if they would give people the knowledge of who they are and what they need, to manipulate them will be hard. Finally, Kabbalah for many years remained a secret teaching, as the authorities did not want to remove the veil from the eyes of the people and to make them self-sufficient. It’s remarkable that our poor Russian-speaking economic elite have such a mess in their heads.

Reflections of the Antiquaries

Q: Well, how can this be? After all, it’s the state savings bank! How can it be that the Russian district is not Russian territory for a bank??? What is happening in Russia? Maybe it’s time for Herman to the basement to register, please, let them think about the Russian lands?
A: Why are you surprised? Welcome to the real world! Quite simply, if Sberbank starts working in Crimea, sanctions will be imposed such that it will not be able to function normally at any branches of Sberbank, even to hang barn door. Pindostan controls the entire global financial system, all banks are part of this financial system, and from the fact that Gref will be in “the basement,” the situation doesn’t change. Gref states the fact: the sky is blue, grass is green, and for the global financial system, part of which is Sberbank, Crimea is Ukraine.

Screenshot from 2015-08-02 07:34:20
Screenshot from 2015-08-02 11:29:50

the endless whatnot (i missed this on tuesday)

The New Great Game Round-Up #105
Christoph Germann, Jul 28 2015

As the situation in northern Afghanistan deteriorates further, the neighbouring Central Asian states as well as Russia and China are becoming increasingly worried about a possible spillover of violence. Pindostan, on the other hand, has dismissed these concerns from the beginning and continues to insist that the security situation in Afghanistan poses no threat to the neighbouring ‘stans. This is a bold claim in light of the territorial gains by the Taliban and other militant groups in Faryab province, which borders Turkmenistan. A few days ago, insurgents blew up an electricity tower in Faryab, disrupting electricity supply to the provincial capital Maymana and four other districts. It was the second time in one week that the power supply lines have been cut due to the fighting. Since pro-government militias are retreating in most areas and Maymana is in danger of falling to militants, the Afghan government wants to launch a major military operation in the province as soon as possible:

Major operation on the way in northern Faryab province
A major military operation is due to kick off in northern Faryab province of Afghanistan to clear the under the control of the Taliban militants. The operation is expected to be launched jointly by the Afghan national security forces including Afghan special forces along with the anti-Taliban public uprising forces. A lawmaker representing northern Faryab province in the Lower House of the Parliament, Wolesi Jirga, told RFE that the operation will be conducted as per the instructions of the First Vice President.

First Vice President Abd’ul-Rashid Dostum and another equally powerful and controversial figure, the governor of Balkh province Atta Mohammad Noor, recently agreed to join forces in order to repel the insurgents in Faryab and other northern Afghan provinces. Noor has long criticized the government for ignoring the rising militant violence in the north. In the search for scapegoats, Dostum has lately also suggested that people inside the government “have paved the way” for the militants and he vowed to reveal the culprits very soon. Although the infamous Afghan warlord is not a friend of the Taliban, he pointed out that foreign fighters from Central Asia and China are the driving force behind the current militant offensive and not the Afghan Taliban. Moreover, Dostum asserted that he is now capable of dealing with the insurgency in northern Afghanistan thanks to the full backing of the government, which had not been the case previously. But given the alarming situation, Kabul doesn’t have much choice:

Taliban Take Remote Afghan Police Base After Mass Surrender
The Taliban took control of a large police base in a remote part of north-eastern Afghanistan after some 100 police and border guards joined the insurgents following three days of fighting, security officials said Sunday. The loss of the Tirgaran base in Badakhshan province marked the largest mass surrender since Pindosi and NATO forces concluded their combat mission at the end of last year. It highlighted the challenges facing Afghan security forces, which have seen their casualties soar in the face of stepped-up insurgent attacks. The police base, in the province’s Wardoj district, had been cut off as heavy rains destroyed roads into the area, said Gen. Baba Jan, Badakhshan province’s police chief. It wasn’t clear why reinforcements hadn’t been flown into the area, though the province’s steep valleys often make aircraft landings difficult.

While Afghan officials stated that the local police commander and his men defected to the Taliban and handed over the base’s weapons and ammunition, the Taliban claimed that they managed to overrun the police base and capture the security forces. They substantiated their claims shortly thereafter by releasing 107 security personnel captured at the base. Badakhshan has seen some of the heaviest fighting since ISAF left the province in the hands of the Afghan security forces. The ineptitude of the Afghan army and the growing presence of Taliban and foreign fighters have not gone unnoticed by neighbouring countries. Especially Tajikistan has been sounding the alarm over the developments in Badakhshan province, but China is worried as well. This is one of the reasons why Beijing is taking a leading role in facilitating the Afghan peace talks:

Afghan peace deal: Islamabad, Beijing ready to become ‘guarantors’
Pakistan and China are ready to become ‘guarantors’ of a possible peace deal between the Afghan government and the Afghan Taliban, officials familiar with the development have said. “We are ready to go the extra mile. We are even willing to become guarantors for any peace agreement,” said a senior Pakistani official. During the talks, the Afghan side demanded immediate ceasefire from the Afghan Taliban. However, the Taliban reportedly agreed to cease fire if Islamabad and Beijing become ‘guarantors’ to ensure that a ‘United National Government’ will be formed in Afghanistan. Another official said China is also ready to provide guarantees if all the negotiating parties accept this arrangement. Following the Murree talks, China had hinted at playing a more proactive role in brokering a peace deal between the Afghan government and the Taliban.

The noteworthy statement of the unnamed senior Pakistani official immediately attracted India’s attention, and the Press Trust of India (PTI) asked Beijing to comment on the report. China’s Foreign Ministry evaded a direct response and only said that China will maintain close cooperation will all parties to bring about peace and reconciliation in Afghanistan. After the first meeting between representatives from the Afghan government and the Taliban in Islamabad went better than expected, most parties have high hopes for the second round of talks this week. China was expected to host the upcoming meeting, but a senior Pakistani security official just confirmed that the negotiations will continue in Pakistan. With the construction of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor making progress, it comes as no real surprise that Islamabad and Beijing are currently doing their best to facilitate the Afghan peace talks:

China-Pakistan economic corridor under construction
Pakistan’s army chief General Raheel Sharif has inspected a road network under construction in Balochistan Province, which is part of a China-Pakistan development project. The economic corridor project links Gwadar Port in south-western Pakistan to north-western China’s Xinjiang. Sharif said the corridor will transform the lives of local people and boost the development of the region. The construction is being out by Pakistan’s Frontier Works Organisation, a military administrative staff corps. The China-Pakistan Economic Corridor was launched as part of the “One Belt, One Road” initiatives to connect Asia and Europe proposed by China.

Given the ongoing security problems in Balochistan and Xinjiang, chaos in neighbouring Afghanistan is the last thing that Pakistan and China need right now. The Pakistani military has vowed to protect Chinese workers and engineers who will assist in the construction of the project with a 12,000-strong special security force. In exchange for billions of dollars in investments, Islamabad has also taken some action against Uyghur Jihadis and other foreign fighters seeking refuge in the Pakistani tribal areas. As usual, Beijing prefers to throw money at the problem. Lately, Chinese consulate officials have reportedly been offering money to Uyghurs in Pakistan for information about activists campaigning against Chinese rule in ‘East Turkestan.’ The Chinese authorities take no chances when it comes to the insurgency in Xinjiang, but an incident in the capital of the north-eastern Liaoning province two weeks ago served as a stark reminder that the Uyghur militancy is no longer confined to China’s far west:

China says police shoot dead three Xinjiang ‘terrorists’
Chinese police in the north-eastern city of Shenyang shot dead three knife-wielding Uighur militants screaming for Islamic holy war and wounded another on Monday as they tried to resist arrest, the government and state media said. “When police pursued the terrorist suspects, four terrorists armed with knives resisted arrest. Police fired shots only after the terrorists ignored warnings,” the Shenyang public security bureau said on its official microblog late on Monday. The state-run Beijing News, citing the Liaoning provincial government, said the militants, from Xinjiang, were killed on Monday afternoon after police tried to enter a rented house during a raid.

Police said that the four were suspected of involvement in the “Jun 12 Hijra case” without elaborating what the case is about. 16 other people have been arrested in connection with the case. Hijra refers to the journey of the Islamic prophet Muhammad and his followers from Mecca to Medina to escape persecution. Chinese counter-terrorism expert Li Wei pointed out that suspected terrorists used to travel to southern China, but the “case in Shenyang suggests that the Hijra movement might have spread across the country.” As previously discussed, the Chinese government has stepped up its efforts to prevent Uyghurs from crossing the border into South-east Asia. When Tong Bishan from China’s Ministry of Public Security recently exposed Turkey’s role in Uyghur smuggling and terror operations, he mentioned that more Uyghurs are now trying to leave via north-eastern China due to increased security along the borders with Laos and Vietnam. One week after the shooting in Shenyang, China’s state broadcaster highlighted the growing terrorist threat in the north by airing an interview:

China arrests Uygur suspect who planned ‘bomb attack’ on shopping mall
Police foiled a terrorist plot to bomb a shopping mall in Hebei province, state media said on Monday, as it aired a “confession” by a suspect from the far western region of Xinjiang who said he had trained for the attack in Syria. The suspect from Kashgar said in a eight-minute video on China Central Television that he had fled to Syria via Turkey for “bomb-making training” in early 2013. He said he returned to China earlier this year, staying in Shijiazhuang, where he plotted to blow up a shopping mall. The case and confession could not be independently verified, but the report underscored Beijing’s concern that the threat of terror attacks was spreading.

Furthermore, the report underscored Turkey’s role in facilitating the illegal migration and terrorist recruitment of Uyghurs. According to Beijing-based analyst Jiang Zhaoyong, the Chinese authorities “wanted the video to show the danger of having a pathway in Turkey for illegal migrants to flee to overseas terrorist groups.” Predictably, World Uyghur Congress (WUC) spokesman Dilxat Raxit had a different take on the video. He dismissed the confession as an attempt to “hype up hostility against Uyghurs.” Beijing is getting increasingly fed up with the WUC and its Western supporters. After the shooting in Shenyang, Global Times launched a scathing attack on the WUC and the West, emphasizing that “Chinese people are clear that some Western forces are pushing the terrorist activities in Xinjiang.” As recent developments have shown, these terrorist activities are now spreading across the country:

Chinese police catch two terror suspects, seize explosives and knives after tip-off
Mainland police on Friday caught two terror suspects in a pre-dawn crackdown on an alleged terrorist group based in Wenzhou in the eastern Zhejiang province. Officers seized explosives, knives and other weapons and were investigating the case, the office said on Weibo. It did not give details about the suspects’ ethnicity, their plots or the number of people involved. Li Wei, director of the China Institutes of Contemporary International Relations’ counter-terrorism research centre, said the cases showed that separatists and religious extremists were exploring new routes to flee abroad for terrorist training.

Now it is up to the Chinese authorities to shut down the new routes. Poor intelligence and porous borders have long stymied China’s efforts to stop Uyghurs from leaving via South-east Asia, but increased security along the boders with Laos and Vietnam appears to be paying off. Prior to that, many Uyghurs tried to cross into Central Asia via Kyrgyzstan. According to a Beijing-based diplomatic source, Southeast Asia became the preferred route for Uyghurs to flee the country only after Kyrgyzstan stepped up security at China’s request. Joint Kyrgyz-Chinese border operations highlight the fruitful cooperation. Since Beijing is not in the business of giving awards to human rights activists, Kyrgyzstan’s cooperation with China doesn’t face the same difficulties as cooperation with Western partners. Pindostan just learned the hard way that the Kyrgyz government doesn’t flinch from taking drastic measures if it feels offended:

Kyrgyzstan cancels cooperation treaty with Pindostan
Kyrgyzstan cancelled a cooperation treaty with Pindostan on Tuesday, raising the stakes in a diplomatic row triggered by the award of a human rights prize to a jailed dissident. Kyrgyz PM Temir Sariyev ordered his cabinet to renounce the 1993 Bilateral Agreement with Pindostan. It will not be valid starting Aug 20, the government said in a statement. The agreement provided for Pindosi aid to Kyrgyzstan to be brought into and out of the country without the levying of taxes, customs duties or any other payment.

Moreover, the agreement ensured that Pindo personnel supporting military or civil aid programs in Kyrgyzstan were granted near-diplomatic status. Although renouncing the 1993 treaty is by no means tantamount to breaking off diplomatic relations, it is a significant step highlighting the deterioration of Kyrgyzstan’s relationship with Pindostan. Washington didn’t expect Bishkek to take such drastic measures in response to the human rights award for Azimjon Askarov. Pindostan said it was disappointed by the decision but reaffirmed that it will continue to provide assistance to the Central Asian country. USAID, which has been involved in a lot of projects in Kyrgyzstan, will now have to make do without its privileged status. Despite mounting criticism at home and abroad, Kyrgyz Pres Atambayev defended the decision to cancel the agreement and went on the offensive:

Kyrgyz leader says Pindostan sought chaos by decorating dissident
Kyrgyz Pres Atambayev said on Monday that Pindostan had sought to “create chaos” in his country by granting an award to a jailed dissident. Atambayev told a news conference in a resort area outside the capital Bishkek: “This cannot fail to shock and for Kyrgyzstan, this means ethnic instability and an attempt to create chaos. It’s just revolting. Someone needs instability in Kyrgyzstan. Someone wants these ashes to smolder all the time.”

Atambayev warned that the award could nurture a dangerous “separatist mood” among Uzbeks by promoting the preconception that “there will never be justice in Kyrgyzstan” for the Uzbek community. Not everyone in the country shares Atambayev’s views. Many people criticized the government for renouncing the treaty. Opposition leader Ravshan Zheenbekov even suggested bringing PM Sariyev to justice for abuse of power, because he was the one who signed the document. Some critics emphasized that the government probably didn’t make this decision on its own, but rather after getting some friendly advice from Moscow. This theory has also been promoted by the usual suspects in the media. Atambayev is clearly aware that it looks like Moscow was pulling the strings behind the scenes. Therefore, he decided to point out that Kyrgyzstan is not a Russian vassal:

Atambayev: Some Day, Russian Military Will Have To Leave Kyrgyzstan
Kyrgyzstan’s president has suggested that Russia’s military base in the country will have to leave at some point, perhaps in an effort to signal that even as relations with Pindostan suffer, he doesn’t intend the country to be a Russian vassal. “We have a long-term agreement, but sooner or later in the future Kyrgyzstan will have to defend itself, without relying on the bases of brotherly friendly countries,” Almazbek Atambayev said at a press conference on Jul 27. He did suggest that the base’s presence was still welcome today: the base’s establishment “was due to threats which the republic can not withstand still today, so the decision on the opening of the base was correct and remains relevant today,” he added.

it’s an elementary error to blame this explosion of phony jihadis, on obama

Proliferation+of+conflict+in+Middle+East++North+Africa+over+the+last+5+years+1
Proliferation+of+conflict+in+Middle+East++North+Africa+over+the+last+5+years+2

The chain of responsibility is pretty clear, and it doesn’t lead to the White House, or even to Langley. It leads to the Kirya in Tel Aviv, and the headquarters of Mossad, a few miles up the main road north, at 32.144736 N, 34.804301 E:

Screenshot from 2015-08-01 13:15:00

But the management of ISIS is surely handled by Prince Bandar. So as I explained some weeks ago, it is doubly or even triply deniable for Washington in terms of its real origin and purpose. But that does not mean Washington controls it, because IMHO Tel Aviv controls it. By the way, have some humour: