Shady Business Deals by Arab Politicians and Royals in ‘Panama Papers’ Leak
Forty years worth of records from the Panamanian law firm Mossack Fonseca were leaked to German newspaper Suddeutsche Zeitung and the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists. The 11.5 million documents, called the ‘Panama Papers,’ detail decades of the firm’s creation of shell companies and offshore accounts to allow their clients to launder money, dodge taxes, ...
Forty years worth of records from the Panamanian law firm Mossack Fonseca were leaked to German newspaper Suddeutsche Zeitung and the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists. The 11.5 million documents, called the ‘Panama Papers,’ detail decades of the firm’s creation of shell companies and offshore accounts to allow their clients to launder money, dodge taxes, and avoid sanctions. Several Arab politicians and royals are listed in Mossack Fonseca’s books, including King Salman of Saudi Arabia, former Iraqi Prime Minister Ayad Allawi, former emir of Qatar Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani, former Prime Minister of Qatar Hamad bin Jassim bin Jaber Al Thani, former Prime Minister of Jordan Ali Abu al-Ragheb, two cousins of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, and the son of ousted Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak.
Fighting in Syria Endangers Ceasefire as Islamic State Loses Ground
The partial ceasefire in Syria grew shakier over the weekend, with fighting between Syrian rebel groups (including Jabhat al-Nusra, which is not party to the ceasefire) and the Assad regime escalating in Aleppo province and the cities of Latakia and Hama. Nusra fighters have seized five villages in Aleppo province since Friday, but have also been met with strong resistance. A Syrian or Russian airstrike killed Abu Firas, a founding member and senior Nusra official, in Idlib province on Sunday, along with approximately 20 other militants.
The Islamic State is also under concerted pressure in Syria. Assad regime forces continued their offensive against Islamic State-occupied towns near Palmyra, retaking al-Qaryatain yesterday. Regime forces are working to remove thousands of landmines laid by the Islamic State in Palmyra and have uncovered a mass grave containing at least 40 bodies, some beheaded or showing signs of torture. In Iraq, a U.S. airstrike killed a rocket expert working for the Islamic State, Jasim Khadijah, who is believed to have been partly responsible for the rocket attack that killed a U.S. Marine last month. Five other Islamic State militants were killed in the strike and an improvised drone was destroyed. Facing growing strain, the Islamic State arrested 35 people in Raqqa on Saturday and the next day executed 15 members of its security services. The executions are reportedly a reaction to the death of senior Islamic State official Abu Hija al-Tunisi in an airstrike last Wednesday.
- Yemeni President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi replaced his popular vice president, Khaled Bahah, who was seen as a potential successor to Hadi, with Maj. Gen. Ali Mohsen al-Ahmar, the country’s most powerful military officer; peace talks between Hadi’s government and the Houthis are set to begin April 18.
- With the Libyan unity government in Tripoli meeting with local groups to shore up support, the U.S. military is preparing new strikes against the Islamic State’s Libyan affiliate and closer cooperation with French and British units on the ground.
- Islamic State suicide bombers carried out several attacks in Iraq today, targeting a security checkpoint in Baghdad, a paramilitary headquarters in Mishahda, and a restaurant frequented by Shia militias in Dhi Qar province; at least 24 people were killed in the bombings.
- Airstrikes targeted militants near the Yemeni city of Mukalla, which is occupied by al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula; there has been a marked uptick in U.S. strikes on AQAP targets in the area in recent weeks.
- The Greek island of Lesbos began deporting Syrian refugees to Turkey today as part of an agreement reached between the European Union and Turkey; as part of the arrangement, Germany has begun resettling vetted refugees from Turkey.
Arguments and Analysis
“How Ankara’s Policy Choices Enabled Its Terrorism Problem” (Dov Friedman, War on the Rocks)
“Turkey faces threats as intractable as they are disquieting, yet its leaders seem keener to manage political outcomes than remedy the violence’s underlying causes. President Erdogan’s conflation of terrorist attacks facing Turkey did not begin after the March bombings. After October’s twin attacks on the Ankara rally, Erdogan affirmed that he saw no distinction between the attacks on the rally and the attacks targeting Turkish soldiers and police — ignoring clear differences between the perpetrators and driving forces behind the attacks. Not two weeks later, in reference to the same bombing, Erdogan named ISIL, the PKK, the Democratic Union Party (the PYD, a Syrian Kurdish PKK-affiliated group), and the Assad regime’s intelligence service as co-conspirators. After the Istiklal bombing, a Turkish official immediately fingered the PKK as prime suspects. Curiously, he made statements to the press within three hours of the 11 AM attack, despite the attack’s similarities to January’s Sultanahmet bombing. The official’s response raised questions about the government’s effort to both muddle the facts and deflect attention from another ISIL attack on Turkish soil.”
“Does ISIS Even Have a European Strategy?” (Benjamin H. Friedman, The National Interest)
“ISIS’s initial success with showy brutality might cause them to overrate its effectiveness. The U.S. public was mostly opposed to making war on ISIS until they broadcast beheadings of U.S. hostages in 2014. Maybe they wanted to be bombed, but miscalculation is a simpler explanation. We should take their counterproductive tendencies seriously. One reason we don’t, as Max Abrahms suggests, could be our tendency to infer motives from results. We’re hardwired to see intentionality in outcomes, at least those caused by others. If terrorists target a city already bracing to get hit, it must be because of the alert, not in spite of it. If their attacks produce xenophobia or encourage states to bomb them, that must be what they want. But only make-believe masterminds intend all the consequences of their action. There’s also room to doubt that the Brussels bombings followed a central ISIS strategy, whatever its wisdom.”
-J. Dana Stuster
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