On Jan. 11, 2017, Intelligence Online — a professional journal covering the world’s intelligence services — revealed that the pilots of Air Tractor attack planes flying from Al Khadim air base in Libya are private contractors working for Erik Prince, the founder of the company formerly known as Blackwater.
War Is Boring’s own sources in Libya confirmed the assertion. Our sources said that the pilots flying the United Arab Emirates Air Force IOMAX AT-802 Air Tractors — converted crop-dusters — are mercenaries and aren’t Arabs.
Most of the for-profit aviators are American, according to IOL. Prince denied involvement in the UAE air operations.
[…] The idea of a UAE-based company recruiting an army of cyberwarriors from abroad to conduct mass surveillance aimed at the country’s own citizens may sound like something out of a bad Bond movie, but based on several months of interviews and research conducted by The Intercept, it appears DarkMatter has been doing precisely that.
Most of those who spoke with The Intercept asked to remain anonymous, citing nondisclosure agreements, fear of potential political persecution in the UAE, professional reprisals, and loss of current and future employment opportunities. Those quoted anonymously were speaking about events based on their direct experience with DarkMatter.
Margaritelli isn’t the only one who insists that DarkMatter isn’t being truthful about its operations and recruitment. More than five sources with knowledge of different parts of the company told The Intercept that sometime after its public debut last November, DarkMatter or a subsidiary began aggressively seeking skilled hackers, including some from the United States, to help it accomplish a wide range of offensive cybersecurity goals. Its work is aimed at exploiting hardware probes installed across major cities for surveillance, hunting down never-before-seen vulnerabilities in software, and building stealth malware implants to track, locate, and hack basically any person at any time in the UAE, several sources explained. As Margaritelli described it in an email to me, “Basically it’s big brother on steroids.”
Amy Goodman speaks to Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Glenn Greenwald of The Intercept about the Clinton Foundation and its donors. An issue Greenwald covers in his latest article: Why Did the Saudi Regime and Other Gulf Tyrannies Donate Millions to the Clinton Foundation? Greenwald also discusses the role of the media in the U.S. election and their different approaches to covering Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton. (Democracy Now!)
As the numerous and obvious ethical conflicts surrounding the Clinton Foundation receive more media scrutiny, the tactic of Clinton-loyal journalists is to highlight the charitable work done by the foundation, and then insinuate — or even outright state — that anyone raising these questions is opposed to its charity. James Carville announced that those who criticize the foundation are “going to hell.” Other Clinton loyalists insinuated that Clinton Foundation critics are indifferent to the lives of HIV-positive babies or are anti-gay bigots.
That the Clinton Foundation has done some good work is beyond dispute. But that fact has exactly nothing to do with the profound ethical problems and corruption threats raised by the way its funds have been raised. Hillary Clinton was America’s chief diplomat, and tyrannical regimes such as the Saudis and Qataris jointly donated tens of millions of dollars to an organization run by her family and operated in its name, one whose works has been a prominent feature of her public persona. That extremely valuable opportunity to curry favor with the Clintons, and to secure access to them, continues as she runs for president.
The claim that this is all just about trying to help people in need should not even pass a laugh test, let alone rational scrutiny. To see how true that is, just look at who some of the biggest donors are. Although it did not give while she was secretary of state, the Saudi regime by itself has donated between $10 million and $25 million to the Clinton Foundation, with donations coming as late as 2014, as she prepared her presidential run. A group called “Friends of Saudi Arabia,” co-founded “by a Saudi Prince,” gave an additional amount between $1 million and $5 million. The Clinton Foundation says that between $1 million and $5 million was also donated by“the State of Qatar,” the United Arab Emirates, and the government of Brunei. “The State of Kuwait” has donated between $5 million and $10 million.
A powerful coalition of Manchester’s political and civic leaders have used the anniversary of the bloody Peterloo Massacre on 16 August to confront Manchester City Football Club’s Emirati owners over human rights abuses in the oil-rich kingdom.
In an open letter published on Tuesday, Manchester-based politicians, legal experts and campaign groups wrote to the club’s owner, Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed Al-Nahyan, the deputy prime minister of the United Arab Emirates, demanding the UAE release political prisoners, investigate allegations of torture and commit to respecting human rights.
The UAE has had close financial ties to Manchester since Mansour purchased the football club in 2008. He has since invested more than £1bn ($1.3bn) in the team, as UAE-backed firms signed a string of deals in the city, including a $1.3bn regeneration partnership with Manchester City Council.
However, rights groups and senior figures in Manchester, including local MPs and two high-profile barristers who represented some of the families in the inquiry into the Hillsborough football disaster, are increasingly concerned about the financial ties to one of the city’s Premier League clubs, given the deteriorating human rights situation in the UAE.
A top-secret strategy document prepared for Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed al-Nahyan reveals that the United Arab Emirates is losing faith in the ability of Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi to serve the Gulf state’s interests.
The document, prepared by one of Bin Zayed’s team and dated 12 October, contains two key quotes which describe the frustration bin Zayed feels about Sisi, whose military coup the Crown Prince bankrolled, pouring in billions of dollars along with Saudi Arabia. It says: “This guy needs to know that I am not an ATM machine.” Further on, it also reveals the political price the Emiratis will exact if they continue to fund Egypt.
Future strategy should be based on not just attempting to influence the government in Egypt but to control it. It is summarised thus: “Now I will give but under my conditions. If I give, I rule.”
Egypt, which has recently tried to stem a run on the Egyptian pound, is heavily dependent on cash from the Emirates, which have become the largest foreign direct investor. At an economic conference in Sharm el-Sheikh in March, the prime minister of the UAE and ruler of Dubai, Sheik Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum, revealed the UAE had already given Egypt $13.9bn and he pledged $3.9bn more. The real amount of aid Sisi got from the Emiratis is thought by analysts to be closer to $25bn, around half of the total Gulf aid to Egypt.
U.S. Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter had reassuring words for Israel when I interviewed him last week in his office at the Pentagon, but he also had blunt criticism of other American allies in the Middle East: the Arab Gulf states, who, he argued, sometimes appear unwilling to effectively engage their enemies. Carter suggested that these states—the members of the six-nation Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), and Egypt as well—would rather build show-horse air forces than commit to the dangerous work of countering ISIS and Iran, the main bogeymen of moderate Arab states.
“If you look at where the Iranians are able to wield influence, they are in the game, on the ground,” Carter said, referring to Iranian military activities in Syria, Iraq, Lebanon, and Yemen. “We don’t like it that they’re in the game on the ground, but they are in the game. There is a sense that some of the Gulf states are up there at 30,000 feet,” more interested in acquiring advanced fighter jets than in building—and deploying—special-operations forces.
- Dubai Air Show: Security fears ‘to boost arms sales’
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- Are Obama’s Record Arms Sales to Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Egypt and Iraq Fueling Unrest in Middle East?
- Sale of U.S. Arms Fuels the Wars of Arab States
- Sales of weapons to Gulf states up 70% over five years
‘Four oil-rich Arab nations, all with histories of philanthropy to United Nations and Middle Eastern causes, have donated vastly more money to the Clinton Foundation than they have to most other large private charities involved in the kinds of global work championed by the Clinton family.
Since 2001, Saudi Arabia, Oman, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates gave as much as $40 million to the Clinton Foundation. In contrast, six similar non-governmental global charities collected no money from those same four Middle Eastern countries; the International Committee of the Red Cross was given $6.82 million. Since 2001, these global foundations have raised a staggering $40 billion to $50 billion to fund their humanitarian work.
The existence of foreign donors to the Clinton Foundation has been well-documented in the media. What hasn’t been revealed, however, is the disparity in donations by these four nations, all of which have been criticized by the State Department over the years for a spate of issues ranging from the mistreatment of women to stoking ethnic discord in the flammable Middle East.
Moreover, the level of Arab support for the Clinton Foundation, which occurred during the time Hillary Clinton was a U.S. senator, was seeking the Democratic nomination for president against Barack Obama, and was serving as secretary of state, fuels questions about the reasons for the donations. Were they solely to support the foundation’s causes, or were they designed to curry favor with the ex-president and with a potential future president?’
‘International firms will scramble for new orders at the Middle East’s largest arms show which opens in Abu Dhabi next week as oil-rich Gulf states load up on weapons in a region rocked by instability and violence.
The Middle East is the largest market driver in the industry with billions of dollars spent annually on buying military equipment, from drones and jet fighters to guided missiles.
Around 1,200 companies from 55 countries are showcasing their latest military wares and technologies at the biennial International Defense Exhibition (IDEX), starting Sunday in Abu Dhabi, capital of the United Arab Emirates.’
‘Where once, sport looked west for investment and inspiration, now it looks east.
The oil-rich billionaires of the Gulf have planted a flag at the heart of the sporting landscape in recent years. They have invested their inconceivable wealth across an array of sports into all corners of the world and now they are using their influence to bring sport to the region, as a global statement of their ambition.
Three Gulf states are at the heart of this extraordinary revolution: Qatar, Abu Dhabi and Dubai. In Dubai alone, you will find one billionaire in every 200,000 people.
In Abu Dhabi, a rival state in the United Arab Emirates, the figures are just as extraordinary. It is in the process of building the jaw-dropping Louvre Abu Dhabi, having paid the world-famous Paris museum more than £400m just to use the name. While in Qatar, more than 14% of households have at least £1m of private wealth in the bank.
And it is that wealth, that influence, which has lured sport to the Gulf.’
‘Prince Harry is visiting Oman today, led by arguably the world’s longest surviving dictator, Sultan Qaboos Bin Said al Said. He has been lauded for creative diplomacy, maintaining ties with countries NATO opposes like China, Russia and Iran. But as the former Media Manager to Prince Charles, Dickie Arbiter, pointed out on this show, the government have ulterior motives for sending the Royals to a country. Harry will be ‘banging the drum for UK plc.’ not far from the UAE, which is currently fighting a proxy war in Libya against Qatar. And UAE’s allies, Bahrain, are accused by Amnesty International of using the threat of rape of children to extort confessions.’ (Going Underground)
‘The Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC)’s very high profile eight month split with member nation Qatar has come to an end today, as Saudi officials announced an “understanding” had been reached.
The dispute centered around Qatar’s funding for the Muslim Brotherhood, which increased significantly after last summer’s Egyptian coup. The other GCC nations have been more favorable to the Egyptian junta, and accused Qatar of undermining stability both in Egypt and in their own nations.’
‘[…] The GNDR is known as a “GONGO” – or a government organised non-governmental organisation. These are organisations which pose as “civil society” organisations, but are usually set up or funded by governments to achieve specific domestic or foreign propaganda aims.
When GNDR published their supposed human rights index in 2013, which put UAE at number fourteen globally, it was enthusiastically reported on by state-sponsored or state controlled media in UAE and other places in the Gulf, but ignored elsewhere.
Perhaps more discerning editors sniffed a rat when the group claimed that “2000 international observers” had ratified the index, but yet not a single one could be named.
What makes GONGOs especially relevant in the Gulf (and there are a few more GNDR lookalikes floating about), is how seriously these Gulf states take their international public image. Qatar, UAE and the other members of the Gulf Co-Operation Council each spend millions on Western public relations to “launder” their own reputations and discredit their opponents. GONGOs are just another part of this propaganda machinery.’
‘The tiny and very rich Persian Gulf emirate of Qatar has become a hostile target for two nations with significant influence in the U.S.: Israel and the United Arab Emirates. Israel is furious over Qatar’s support for Palestinians generally and (allegedly) Hamas specifically, while the UAE is upset that Qatar supports the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt (UAE supports the leaders of the military coup) and that Qatar funds Islamist rebels in Libya (UAE supports forces aligned with Ghadaffi (see update below)).
This animosity has resulted in a new campaign in the west to demonize the Qataris as the key supporter of terrorism. The Israelis have chosen the direct approach of publicly accusing their new enemy in Doha of being terrorist supporters, while the UAE has opted for a more covert strategy: paying millions of dollars to a U.S. lobbying firm – composed of former high-ranking Treasury officials from both parties – to plant anti-Qatar stories with American journalists. That more subtle tactic has been remarkably successful, and shines important light on how easily political narratives in U.S. media discourse can be literally purchased.’
‘The United Arab Emirates and Egypt have carried out a series of airstrikes in the Libyan capital, Tripoli, U.S. officials said Monday, marking an escalation in the chaotic war among Libya’s rival militias that has driven American and other diplomats from the country.
The Obama administration did not know ahead of time about the highly unusual military intervention, although the United States was aware that action by Arab states might come as the crisis in Libya worsened, said one official who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the matter.
The airstrikes appear tied to fear over the growing muscle of Islamist militias. The region’s monarchies and secular dictatorships are increasingly alarmed about Islamist gains from Libya to Syria and Iraq. And the airstrikes may signal a new willingness by some Arab states to take on a more direct military role in the region’s conflicts.
Various groups in Libya have been battling for control of the main Tripoli airport, and the strikes may have been a failed attempt to keep the strategic facility from falling to extremists.’
- 5 Ironies of US Reaction to Egypt/UAE Bombing of Libya
- Report: Egypt, UAE Behind Recent Libya Airstrikes
- Troubled Libya now faces dueling governments
- Strife in Libya Could Presage Long Civil War
- Libyan capital under Islamist control after Tripoli airport seized
- Over a hundred migrants missing after boat sinks off Libyan coast
- Libya withdraws as host of 2017 African Cup of Nations
- Libya football stadium hosts videotaped execution
- Libya restarts oil exports from biggest port as fighting rages in Benghazi
- Libya shuts 2 TV stations taken over by Islamists
- Islamist vs. Jihadist: Complications Grow in Libya’s Bengahzi
- U.N. envoy plans Libya trip soon to negotiate ceasefire
‘[…] Reports about the conditions of workers in the Gulf have been wide and probing. Articles contrast the glittering skyscrapers they build and the scant wages they receive. In May, the New York Timespublished a scathing exposé of labor abuses at NYU Abu Dhabi.
But what’s often lost in much of the reporting about foreign labor in the United Arab Emirates—and Abu Dhabi specifically—is the agency of the workers themselves. The men I met in the Gulf are brave and ambitious—heroes to their families back home. They dared to chase better prospects and were met with repression instead. In a country where the faintest whisper of dissent can get you deported, more than a hundred strikes have rocked the construction industry in the past three years. While workers may be lied to and forced to live and work in brutal conditions, they also—improbably—are fighting back.’
‘A global terrorism report has praised GCC countries for their strong regional and international counterterrorism cooperation but said Qatar and Kuwait had not done enough to clamp down on private terrorist financing. The US State Department study found the UAE to have made the greatest strides in cutting off illegal flows of money to extremist groups, especially in regulating the informal money transfer operators known as hawaladars. The department singled out Kuwait and Qatar for not enforcing new terrorist financing laws during 2013, and noted that the two countries were major sources of funding for Sunni extremist groups in Syria.
…The annual report said no designations of terrorist fund-raisers were made by Qatari authorities in 2013 and only one suspicious transaction was reported to the public prosecutor as of November. Kuwait was praised for drafting a new antiterrorism funding law in consultation with the International Monetary Fund that forces banks to report suspicious transactions, and allows the government to freeze assets and prosecute fund-raisers. But “multiple agencies have jurisdiction, and inadequate legislation made prosecution … a challenge,” the report said. The UAE was praised for its cooperation with the US over financial law enforcement. New regulations that made hawaladar registration mandatory were issued by the UAE Central Bank last year.’
The global industry for halal food and lifestyle products — ones that meet Islamic law standards of manufacture — is estimated to be worth hundreds of billions of dollars and is multiplying as Muslim populations grow. Producers outside the Muslim world, from Brazil to the U.S. and Australia, are eager to tap into the market. The United Arab Emirates is positioning itself to be their gateway, part of its push to become a global center of Islamic business and finance.
UAE officials announced last month that the city of Dubai has dedicated around 6.7 million square feet of land in Dubai Industrial City for a “Halal Cluster” for manufacturing and logistic companies that deal in halal food, cosmetics and personal care items. Dubai Industrial City CEO Abdullah Belhoul said the idea to create a zone just for halal manufacturers was driven by the increased demand locally and internationally for such products.
Saudi Arabia’s surprise announcement on Friday to declare the Muslim Brotherhood as a terrorist organization is an attempt to strike the group at their weakest moment – and an attempt to kick start worldwide condemnation towards the group, an analyst said. The blacklisting of the group comes soon after the kingdom – along with Bahrain and the UAE – withdrew their ambassadors from Qatar, a known backer of former Egyptian President Mohammad Mursi’s Brotherhood-led government. The ban is an attempt to strike the group at their weakest moment, according to Abdulkhaleq Abdulla, a professor of political science at UAE University.
“They [the Muslim Brotherhood] have lost so much as a result of the crackdown in Egypt and the dismantling of their leadership, so I think the time is probably right [to ban them],” said Abdulla. By joining Egypt in designating the group as a terrorist organization, the kingdom may be able to persuade Western governments to blacklist the group – further weakening its power, the analyst said. “Probably if you have the UAE joining in, and others, probably this will send a message to west, to London and Washington, this is probably going to be a masterstroke from the Saudis,” he told Al Arabiya.
The UAE’s foreign policy will not be burdened by the rest of the Arab world as it strengthens its ties with Asia, the Minister of State for Foreign Affairs said at a majlis on Wednesday. Dr Anwar Gargash, also the Minister of State for Federal National Council Affairs, told the Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Majlis that the country’s foreign policy was focused towards stability and development. The UAE must “invest in our relations more”, with regards to Asia, he said, adding that of the 16 most important embassies to the UAE, five represent Asian countries. The country’s relations with central Asia must also be direct, and not through a western middle-man.
Arabian Gulf officials opened a crucial GCC summit on Tuesday amid a backdrop of regional political shifts that have unveiled rifts between member states.
[…] Three Gulf leaders attended the meeting – the rulers of Qatar, Bahrain and host country Kuwait. The UAE was represented by Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, Vice President and Ruler of Dubai.
The Saudi crown prince represented King Abdullah, while Oman was represented by its deputy premier.
The recent rapprochement between the US and Iran has sharpened a call by Saudi Arabia for GCC members to form an EU-style union. Yesterday there seemed to be a step in that direction as Kuwait’s foreign ministry under secretary, Khaled Al Jarallah, said the summit would approve setting up a unified GCC military command.
Arab states have been urged to re-evaluate their relationship with oil, phase out energy subsidies and invest heavily in renewable energy.
Revenue from oil and gas will continue to be crucial but governments should use the funds to develop renewable resources and focus on energy efficiency.
Energy subsidies should be phased out, private investment encouraged and national energy strategies established, the Arab Forum for Environment and Development says in a new report.
[…] Throughout the Arab world, hydrocarbons account for an average 36 per cent of GDP, but the figure varies widely from country to country – from 33 per cent in the UAE to 88 per cent in Saudi Arabia and Qatar, up to more than 97 per cent in Algeria and Iraq.
The U.S. Defense Department plans to sell Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates $10.8 billion in advanced weaponry, including air-launched cruise missiles and precision munitions.
Notice yesterday of the planned sales of advanced weapons made by Boeing Co. (BA) and Raytheon Co. (RTN) sends a message of support from the Obama administration to two close allies in the Middle East as the U.S. and five other nations are engaged in talks to curb Iran’s suspected nuclear weapons program.
The Saudi regime has pressed the U.S. to maintain tough economic sanctions on Iran, both to discourage it from developing a nuclear arsenal and to limit Iran’s capacity to help its embattled ally, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, according to two U.S. officials who spoke on condition of anonymity about diplomatic relations.
The proposal includes the first U.S. sales to Middle East allies of new Raytheon and Boeing weapons that can be launched at a distance from Saudi F-15 and U.A.E. F-16 fighters.
English football has been warned it has allowed one of its major clubs to be exploited as a “branding vehicle” by an international regime accused of human rights abuses after a trial in Abu Dhabi, a country ruled by Manchester City‘s owner and his brothers, was widely denounced as repressive, involving torture, and “fundamentally unfair”.
Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have vehemently protested against the mass arrest of 94 people, their alleged torture while in Abu Dhabi jails, a “fundamentally unfair” trial, and long prison sentences with no right of appeal handed down earlier this month to the 69 people convicted. Amnesty said the treatment of the 94 in the United Arab Emirates, where Sheikh Mansour al-Nahyan’s family, rulers of the richest emirate, Abu Dhabi, are dominant, “shows the authorities’ determination to crush any form of dissent”.
The 94 were tried on charges of plotting to overthrow the UAE government, which remains adamant this was proven against the 69 convicted. The regime, whose army and security services are headed by Sheikh Mansour’s brother, Sheikh Mohammed, the crown prince of Abu Dhabi, maintains the 69 were operating as a front for the Muslim Brotherhood, and seeking to impose a conservative Islamist state, including by military means. The defendants, who include lawyers, teachers and academics, say this was a crackdown by an increasingly authoritarian state, after they voiced valid criticisms of the regime, calling for more democracy and freedom of speech. Only a minority of the UAE population has any kind of vote, the ruling families have been in charge for centuries, and in 2013 it remains a crime to criticise the rulers, belong to a trade union or form any organisation not licensed by the regime.
Amnesty and HRW have stated that they believe torture is “a systematic practice” in Abu Dhabi and UAE state security jails, and that complaints that these men were tortured, including to extract confessions, have not been investigated. Amnesty said the trial showed “a deeply flawed judicial system” at odds with the “global image the UAE likes to project of itself as an efficient, forward-thinking country, which in many ways it is”.
HRW made specific reference to Manchester City, arguing that ownership of the Premier League club is enabling Abu Dhabi to “construct a public relations image of a progressive, dynamic Gulf state, which deflects attention from what is really going on in the country”.
A Norwegian woman has spoken out about the 16-month prison sentence she received in Dubai after reporting a rape incident to police.
Interior designer Marte Deborah Dalelv was on a business trip in Dubai when she says she was raped.
The 24-year-old reported the March attack to the police but found herself charged with having extramarital sex, drinking alcohol, and perjury.
Convicted earlier this week, she says she is appealing against the verdict.
The appeal hearing is scheduled for early September.
Two of the Persian Gulf’s richest monarchies pledged $8 billion in cash and loans to Egypt on Tuesday, a decision that was aimed not only at shoring up a shaky transitional government, but also at undermining their Islamist rivals and strengthening their allies across a newly turbulent Middle East.
The robust financial aid package announced by Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates came a day after the Egyptian military killed dozens of Muslim Brotherhood members protesting last week’s military ouster of Egypt’s Islamist president, Mohamed Morsi. The aid package underscored a continuing regional contest for influence between Saudi Arabia and Qatar, one that has accelerated since the Arab uprising upended the status quo and brought Islamists to power.
Qatar, in alliance with Turkey, has given strong financial and diplomatic support to the Muslim Brotherhood, but also to other Islamists operating on the battlefields of Syria and, before that, Libya. Saudi Arabia and the Emirates, by comparison, have sought to restore the old, authoritarian order, fearful that Islamist movements and calls for democracy would destabilize their own nations.
The promise to provide so much assistance also highlighted the limits of American leverage: the United States provides Egypt $1.5 billion in annual aid, a small fraction of what the gulf states have promised. But the gulf intervention contrasted sharply with the Obama administration’s uncertainty about how to respond to the military takeover, and more broadly, how to wield influence across an increasingly chaotic and fragmented Arab world where American interests are hard to define.
More than 65 suspects accused of plotting an Islamist coup in the United Arab Emirates received prison sentences of up to 15 years on Tuesday in a mass trial that underscored the widening crackdowns on perceived Arab Spring-inspired dissent across the entire Gulf Arab region.
Rights groups have accused the UAE of widespread violations, including jailhouse abuses against the 94 suspects on trial. The suspects included teachers, lawyers and even the cousin of one of the UAE’s rulers.
Authorities have rejected the claims and have moved ahead with further arrests sweeps targeting suspected groups linked to Islamist networks such as Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood.
The UAE — which allows no political parties — has not faced any street protests or direct pressures since the Arab Spring uprisings began in the region more than two years ago. But Western-backed officials have turned their attention to suspected Islamist cells and online activists who have called for a greater public voice in the tightly controlled country.