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Which Nations Are State Sponsors of Terrorism?

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On 30 December 2009, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton sent a cable (subsequently released to the public by WikiLeaks) to America’s Ambassadors in Saudi Arabia, Qatar, UAE, Kuwait, and Pakistan, headlined, “Terrorist Finance: Action Request for Senior Level Engagement on Terrorism Finance.”

“Terrorism finance” is what’s generally referred-to by the official phrase “state sponsorship of terrorism.” This cable from Clinton contained the U.S. Government’s confidential list of state sponsors of terrorism. Her cable discussed exactly how bad the situation was in each of those countries. The supply of money to jihadists is what makes a government a “state sponsor of terrorism.” Supplying money to jihadists is illegal in almost every country, including the United States. And very little even of private money is paid from Americans to jihadists. However, the U.S. Government hides its own quite substantial supply of weapons to jihadists. Here are some examples of that: On 24 March 2013, the New York Times bannered “Arms Airlift to Syria Rebels Expands, With Aid From C.I.A.”, and reported that “From offices at secret locations, American intelligence officers have helped the Arab governments shop for weapons,” and that “‘A conservative estimate of the payload of these flights would be 3,500 tons of military equipment,’ said Hugh Griffiths, of the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, who monitors illicit arms transfers.” The U.S. Government tried to hide its involvement in this, by doing it through allied “Arab governments,” which were named in this news-report: “Qatar and Saudi Arabia had been shipping military materials via Turkey,” and all four of these Governments (U.S., Sauds, Turkey, and Qatar) were trying to overthrow Syria’s Government. Then, on 8 September 2014, AFP headlined “Islamic State fighters using US arms: study”, and they reported that the U.S. Government was supplying ISIS. On 1 September 2017, Russian Television reported that the U.S. Government was secretly supplying weapons to ISIS and that an anti-Assad fighter had even quit the CIA-backed New Syrian Army because of that.

However, these supplies were only weapons, not money. For example: the study cited by AFP “documented weapons seized by Kurdish forces from militants in Iraq and Syria over a 10-day period in July.” “Militants” were also called “rebels,” and they had U.S. weapons, which were seized by U.S.-backed “Kurdish forces,” whom the U.S. Government called “rebels,” but who thought that “rebels” didn’t include ISIS, and that ISIS wasn’t also being armed by the U.S. Government. They were mistaken. In fact, on 2 July 2017, the great investigative journalist Dilyana Geytandzhieva headlined “350 diplomatic flights carry weapons for terrorists Azerbaijan’s Silk Way Airlines transports weapons with diplomatic clearance for Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Congo.” Bills of lading, etc., were presented as documentation, for the CIA’s secret operation to arm the jihadist groups that were trying to overthrow and replace Syria’s Government.

However, these were not supplies of money to the ‘rebels.’ Only the supply of money is what makes a government a “state sponsor of terrorism.” And that was her cable’s topic.

Secretary of State Clinton told those Ambassadors to those Muslim-majority lands, to make clear to the given nation’s aristocrats, that, under the new U.S. President, Barack Obama, there would no longer be any allowance for continuation of their donations to Al Qaeda and other jihadist groups that attack the United States.

Her cable opened, “This is an action request cable,” meaning that the operations of the local U.S. Embassy in the given nation would be monitored for compliance with the Secretary of State’s “request.”

Clinton’s focus was:

on disrupting illicit finance activities in Afghanistan and Pakistan and the external financial/logistical support networks of terrorist groups that operate there, such as al-Qa’ida, the Taliban, and Lashkar e-Tayyiba (LeT). The IFTF’s [Interagency Illicit Finance Task Force] activities are a vital component of the USG’s [U.S. Government’s] Afghanistan and Pakistan (Af/Pak) strategy dedicated to disrupting illicit finance flows between the Gulf countries and Afghanistan and Pakistan. The IFTF has created a diplomatic engagement strategy to assist in the accomplishment of this objective. The strategy focuses on senior-level USG engagement with Gulf countries and Pakistan to communicate USG counterterrorism priorities and to generate the political will necessary to address the problem. The IFTF has drafted talking points for use by all USG officials in their interactions with Gulf and Pakistani interlocutors. These points focus on funding for terrorist groups threatening stability in Afghanistan and Pakistan and targeting coalition soldiers. These points have been cleared through the relevant Washington agencies.

Although the named concern was “groups threatening stability in Afghanistan and Pakistan,” the U.S. Secretary of State was actually telling her agents (the Ambassadors) to warn the local aristocracy to stop funding the groups that pose a terrorist threat to the United States as well.

She was listing the actual countries that are State Sponsors of Terrorism and threaten the people of the United States and of other countries.

These confidentially listed State Sponsors of Terrorism were being listed as of 2009, which was 8 years after 9/11; and so, after eight years of George W, Bush’s being in the U.S. White House, these were the nations that still were leading the world in the financing of the Sunni fundamentalist group Al Qaeda and other terrorist organizations, which were doing such attacks.

This cable reviewed the existing situation regarding each one of the governments, and it included separate instructions to each of the Embassies:

Concerning Saudi Arabia:

While the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA) takes seriously the threat of terrorism within Saudi Arabia, it has been an ongoing challenge to persuade Saudi officials to treat terrorist financing emanating from Saudi Arabia as a strategic priority. …

Donors in Saudi Arabia constitute the most significant source of funding to Sunni terrorist groups worldwide. …

Saudi Arabia remains a critical financial support base for al-Qa’ida, the Taliban, LeT, and other terrorist groups, including Hamas, which probably raise millions of dollars annually from Saudi sources. …

She noted that, In 2002, the Saudi government promised to set up a Charities Committee that would address this issue, but has yet to do so. 

She instructed the U.S. Ambassador there to:

encourage the Saudi government to take more steps to stem the flow of funds from Saudi Arabia-based sources to terrorists and extremists worldwide, and to, encourage the Saudi government to take more steps to stem the flow of funds from Saudi Arabia-based sources to terrorists and extremists worldwide.

Concerning Qatar:

Qatar’s overall level of CT [Counter Terrorist] cooperation with the U.S. is considered the worst in the region. Al-Qaida, the Taliban, UN-1267 listed LeT, and other terrorist groups exploit Qatar as a fundraising locale.  Although Qatar’s security services have the capability to deal with direct threats and occasionally have put that capability to use, they have been hesitant to act against known terrorists out of concern for appearing to be aligned with the U.S. and provoking reprisals. …

However, given the current focus of U.S. engagement with the GOQ [Government of Qatar] on terror finance related to Hamas, it would be counter-productive for Embassy Doha to engage the GOQ at this time on disrupting financial support of terrorist groups operating in Afghanistan and Pakistan. [No explanation of that was provided, but one interpretation of it might be: Protecting Israel from Hamas was more important to the Obama Administration than was “disrupting financial support of terrorist groups operating in Afghanistan and Pakistan.”]

Concerning Kuwait:

Kuwait … has been less inclined to take action against Kuwait-based financiers and facilitators plotting attacks outside of Kuwait. Al-Qa’ida and other groups continue to exploit Kuwait both as a source of funds and as a key transit point. …

Clinton noted that though

Kuwait’s law prohibits efforts to undermine or attack Arab neighbors, … the GOK [Government of Kuwait] faces an uphill battle to implement comprehensive terror finance legislation due to a lack of parliamentary support. 

In other words: Kuwait’s aristocracy refused to donate to jihadist groups that attack themselves or the aristocracies of other “Arab” countries, but did contribute to jihadist groups which attacked non-Arab countries. Furthermore, the official reason why they did was that the parliament, which consists of people who are elected by the public, supported jihadists who attacked non-Arab countries. (Actually, when they supported jihadists trying to take over Syria, they were violating that rule, but only because those Sunni jihadists would be replacing a Shiite leader, Bashar al-Assad, who was, to them, even worse: he’s a non-sectarian Shiite, whose political party, the Ba’athist Party, is committed to a separation between church-and-state.)

The Washington Post’s Karen DeYoung headlined on 25 April 2014, “Kuwait, ally on Syria, is also the leading funder of extremist rebels.” She reported that, “Last month, the administration decided to go public with its concerns. … Such fundraising was not illegal in Kuwait until last year, when the government took advantage of an unrelated parliamentary boycott to push through a new law. Disappointingly, since then there has not been much vigor shown in implementing a ban on terrorist financing.”

DeYoung went on: “Unlike other monarchies and autocracies in the region, Kuwait’s politics are relatively open and combative. The executive branch, headed by Emir Sabah Ahmed al-Sabah, frequently clashes with a feisty parliament composed of warring political groups within both the Sunni majority and the Shiite minority. Unlike other Gulf countries, Kuwait allows broad freedom of association for its 2.7 million citizens, and Sabah’s rule is characterized more by political incorporation than confrontation.”

Secretary of State Clinton’s cable continued:

A particular point of difference between the U.S. and concerns Revival of Islamic Heritage Society (RIHS). … providing financial and material support to al-Qa’ida. … In Kuwait, RIHS enjoys broad public support as a charitable entity. The GOK to date has not taken significant action to address or shut down RIHS’s headquarters or its branches.

So: whereas the Sabah family had been saved by America’s 1991 war against Saddam Hussein’s invasion and attempted takeover there, they didn’t crack down against Al Qaeda; they didn’t stop the funding to Al Qaeda. They “took advantage of an unrelated parliamentary boycott to push through a new law,” but, after the boycott ended, didn’t enforce the new law.

Concerning UAE:

UAE-based donors have provided financial support to a variety of terrorist groups, including al-Qa’ida, the Taliban, LeT and other terrorist groups, including Hamas. 

Concerning Pakistan:

Pakistan’s intermittent support to terrorist groups and militant organizations threatens to undermine regional security and endanger U.S. national security objectives in Afghanistan and Pakistan.  Although Pakistani senior officials have publicly disavowed support for these groups, some officials from the Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence Directorate (ISI) continue to maintain ties with a wide array of extremist organizations, in particular the Taliban, LeT and other extremist organizations.  These extremist organizations continue to find refuge in Pakistan and exploit Pakistan’s extensive network of charities, NGOs, and madrassas.  This network of social service institutions readily provides extremist organizations with recruits, funding and infrastructure for planning new attacks.

Those were the countries that, in private, the U.S. Government recognized as being State Sponsors of Terrorism. All of them were being identified as funders of fundamentalist-Sunni groups who perpetrate terrorism upon the U.S. and other countries.

The United States Government has an official list of “State Sponsors of Terrorism”, and only four governments are on it: Syria (as of 1979),  Iran (as of 1984), Sudan (as of 1993), and North Korea (as of 2017). None of them is a fundamentalist-Sunni-led nation, and none of them has ever attacked, nor even threatened to attack, the United States of America. By contrast, fundamentalist-Sunni terrorist groups such as Al Qaeda, which are primarily funded by the actual State Sponsors of Terrorism (mainly Saudi Arabia), have attacked the U.S. Furthermore, on 6 September 2016, Asia News headlined “Conference in Grozny: Wahhabism exclusion from the Sunni community provokes Riyadh’s wrath” and reported that at the international Islamic conference in Grozny, jihadist sects were condemned by all Governments except Saudi Arabia’s, and that the only Government continuing to support the most extremist sect, Wahhabism, was Saudi Crown Prince Salman, the American regime’s closest ally.

Furthermore, in a secret 2014 court case in the United States, the financial bagman who had personally collected tens of millions of dollars for Al Qaeda during the years prior to Saudi Arabia’s 9/11 attacks, said there, under oath, that, “without the money of the — of the Saudi, you will have nothing” of Al Qaeda. And, yet, Saudi Arabia wasn’t even on the official list of “State Sponsors of Terrorism,” not at all. The U.S. Government continues, to this day, to protect the royal Saud family, who own and control Saudi Arabia and its Government and who were the chief funder of the 9/11 attacks.

Consequently: On whose side is the Government of the United States of America? Is it on the side of countries such as Saudi Arabia and Qatar; or is it on the side of countries such as Iran and Syria — countries that the Sauds want to take over? And why does it lie (deceive), so much, calling “State Sponsors of Terrorism” countries such as Syria and Iran that are instead the chief enemies of the actual state sponsors of terrorism?

As I have previously documented, the only country that has any authentic reason to worry about terrorism that comes from Shiites, such as in (or that are backed by) Iran, is Israel. But is the U.S. Government supposed to be representing and protecting the people in Israel, or instead to be representing and protecting the people in the United States of America? What’s actually behind the U.S. Government’s systematic lying, against Shiites, and for Sunnis (especially Wahhabist ones) and Israel? And why is this U.S. Government lying bipartisan — not Republican or Democratic, but both — at the very top of the U.S. regime: the people who actually control both of America’s political Parties? Or, do the American people actually not control the American Government? If not, then what should be done to the American Government, and why are such questions not being publicly debated and discussed, especially in the American press and among the American people? Is the U.S. lockdown that complete? (This commentary is being submitted to all U.S. newsmedia for publication, to get that essential public conversation in America started.)

Author’s note: first published in strategic-culture.org

Investigative historian Eric Zuesse is the author, most recently, of They’re Not Even Close: The Democratic vs. Republican Economic Records, 1910-2010

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USA and Australia Worry About Cyber Attacks from China Amidst Pegasus Spyware

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Pegasus Spyware Scandal has shaken whole India and several other countries. What will be its fallout no one knows as we know only tip of iceberg. Amidst Pegasus Spyware Scandal USA and Australia both have shown serious concerns about Cyber Attacks on US and Australian interests. Both say that China is hub of malware software and both face millions of such attacks daily.

I am trying to understand why a software is needed to spy on a particular individual when all calls, messages, data, emails are easily accessible from server. In most of cases these servers are located in USA and some cases these are located in host country. In certain sensitive cases Government Agencies have their own server like Central Intelligence Agency and hundreds of other agencies and military establishment world over including India. Now point is who installs those servers.

A couple of years back I had talked to Mr Mike Molloy who is Chief Executive Officer of Orion Global Technologies previously known as Orion SAS. He had explained me how his company installs servers in host countries on request of private or gov bodies. He talks about contract and trust. That means even when a company or Gov buys a server or software for designated uses the “Secrecy” Factor remain on discretion of company which has supplied server or software.

Now  if all data, e-mail, chat, messages, calls are accessible to Gov as per law and technology (Through Server all components of Communication are accessible and thats why  me and you see start seeing call recording of a person even after many years later), I am unable to understand why a Gov will be needing a software to Spy on any one.

Now coming to where Australia and USA wants to carry the whole debate.

Australian Foreign Minister Sen Marise Payne said, “Australian Government joins international partners in expressing serious concerns about malicious cyber activities by China’s Ministry of State Security.

“In consultation with our partners, the Australian Government has determined that China’s Ministry of State Security exploited vulnerabilities in the Microsoft Exchange software to affect thousands of computers and networks worldwide, including in Australia. These actions have undermined international stability and security by opening the door to a range of other actors, including cybercriminals, who continue to exploit this vulnerability for illicit gain”, She further added.

She opined, ”The Australian Government is also seriously concerned about reports from our international partners that China’s Ministry of State Security is engaging contract hackers who have carried out cyber-enabled intellectual property theft for personal gain and to provide commercial advantage to the Chinese Government”.

She warned China by saying, “Australia calls on all countries – including China – to act responsibly in cyberspace.  China must adhere to the commitments it has made in the G20, and bilaterally, to refrain from cyber-enabled theft of intellectual property, trade secrets and confidential business information with the intent of obtaining competitive advantage”.

On other hand USA’s The National Security Agency (NSA), Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) and Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) released a Cybersecurity Advisory on Chinese State-Sponsored Cyber Operations. National Security Advisor said, ”Chinese state-sponsored cyber activity poses a major threat to U.S. and allied systems. These actors aggressively target political, economic, military, educational, and critical infrastructure personnel and organizations to access valuable, sensitive data. These cyber operations support China’s long-term economic and military objectives”.

The information in this advisory builds on NSA’s previous release “Chinese State-Sponsored Actors Exploit Publicly Known Vulnerabilities.” The NSA, CISA, and FBI recommended mitigations empower our customers to reduce the risk of Chinese malicious cyber activity, and increase the defensive posture of their critical networks. 

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Afghan issue can not be understood from the simplistic lens of geopolitical blocs

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pakistan-terrorism

Authors: Tridivesh Singh Maini  and Varundeep Singh*

On July 14, 2021 a terror attack was carried out in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KPK) province in which a number of Chinese engineers, working on the Dasu hydropower project (a project which is part of the China Pakistan Economic Corridor) were killed. The attack predictably evinced a strong response from China. The Chinese foreign minister, Wang Yi speaking before a Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) Foreign Minister’s meeting asked the Taliban to disassociate itself from ‘terrorist elements’ and in a meeting with Pakistan Foreign Minister, Shah Mehmood Qureshi, asked Pakistan to bring the perpetrators to book. Earlier in April 2021, a car bomb attack took place at Serena hotel in Quetta which was hosting China’s Ambassador to Pakistan (four people were killed and twelve were injured)

Wang Yi significantly praised the Ashraf Ghani government, for its attempts towards building national unity and providing effective governance. Beijing clearly realizes that its economic investments in the country as well as big ticket infrastructural projects can not remain safe if there is no security. Afghanistan also criticized Pakistan for its role in sending 10000 Jihadis to Taliban, this is important in the context of the region’s geopolitics.

 Like all other countries, Beijing and Islamabad, would have expected uncertainty after the US withdrawal of troops but perhaps over estimated their capabilities in dealing with the turbulence which had been predicted by many.

Importance of Chinese Foreign Minister’s statements

Wang Yi’s statements are important because days earlier a Taliban spokesman, Suhail Shaheen had praised China and welcomed its role in the country’s reconstruction. He had also assured China that those involved in the insurgency in Xinjiang would not be given refuge in Afghanistan (one of China’s major concerns has been the support provided by Taliban to the East Turkmenistan movement)

While Beijing may have opened back channels with the Taliban and realized that it needs to adapt to the changing geopolitics, recent developments would have increased its skepticism vis-à-vis the Taliban. On the other hand, Russia has been more favorable towards the Taliban. Russia’s Deputy Chief of Mission in India, Roman Babushkin argued that the Taliban are a reality which needs to be accepted, and also that any military activities without a political process are insufficient.

Babushkin did make the point that for successful negotiations, Taliban needed to end violence.

‘that Taliban should deal with the problem of terrorism and other related issues in order to become legitimate, in order to [get] delisted [at the UN Security Council], in order to go ahead with the future Afghanistan and creation of the inclusive government

It would be pertinent to point out, that Zamir Kabulov, Russian President’s Afghanistan envoy went a step further and said that the Afghan government was not doing enough to make talks with Taliban a success.

China’s statements subtle warning to the Taliban, indicating its reservations, and praise of Ghani indicate a possibility of greater understanding between Washington and Beijing (even though Beijing has repeatedly attributed the current troubles in Afghanistan to Washington’s decision to withdraw troops).

Can US and China find common ground

 It remains to be seen if Biden who has exhibited dexterity on a number of complex issues reaches out to Xi Jinping to find common ground with regard to Afghanistan. Significantly, while US-Turkey relations had witnessed a downward trajectory and Biden has been critical of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s authoritarian tendencies and Human rights record, both leaders met on the sidelines of the NATO Summit in June 2021. During the meeting Turkey agreed to secure Kabul Airport. US National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan while commenting on Turkey’s assurance said

‘The clear commitment from the leaders was established that Turkey would play a lead role in securing Hamid Karzai International Airport, and we are now working through how to execute to get to that,’

Taliban earlier this week warned Turkey of ‘consequences’ if the Middle Eastern nation increased its troop presence in Afghanistan.

Conclusion

Russia’s statements with regard to the Taliban indicate that it is not totally on the same page as China (its prior experience in Afghanistan has made it more cautious and circumspect), and that the Afghan issue can not be understood from the simplistic lens of geo-political blocs and traditional lenses. All major stakeholders in Afghanistan, both within the region and outside, seem to be understandably befuddled by the turn of events. It is not just the US, but even China which would be worried not just from an economic stand point but the overall security implications of the turmoil in Afghanistan. The terror attack in KPK indicates that other CPEC related projects could also face threats from militant groups. Beijing would thus need to be quick to react to the overtures from the Taliban in order to secure its economic assets and lives of Chinese workers in neighbouring Pakistan.

 It is especially important for Washington, Beijing and other important stakeholders in the region to work together for dealing with the near term turbulence as well as long term challenges Afghanistan is likely to face.

*Varundeep Singh is an Independent Policy Analyst.

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Pegasus: Human rights-compliant laws needed to regulate spyware

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The UN human rights chief on Monday said the apparent widespread use of Pegasus spy software to illegally undermine the rights of those under surveillance, including journalists and politicians, was “extremely alarming” and confirmed “some of the worst fears” surrounding the potential misuse of such technology. 

“Various parts of the UN Human Rights system, including my own Office, have repeatedly raised serious concerns about the dangers of authorities using surveillance tools from a variety of sources supposed to promote public safety in order to hack the phones and computers of people conducting legitimate journalistic activities, monitoring human rights or expressing dissent or political opposition”, said High Commissioner Michelle Bachelet in a statement

According to reports, the Pegasus data leak allegations which surfaced through a consortium of media organisations over the weekend, suggests widespread and continuing abuse of the software, which the manufacturers insist, is only intended for use against criminals and terrorists. 

The Pegasus malware infects electronic devices, enabling operators of the tool to obtain messages, photos and emails, record calls, and even activate microphones, according to the consortium’s reporting. The leak contains a list of more than 50,000 phone numbers which reportedly belong to those identified as people of interest, by clients of the company behind Pegasus, including some governments.  

‘Indispensable role’ 

Surveillance software has been linked to the arrest, intimidation and even killing of journalists and human rights defenders, according to the senior UN official.  

Reports of surveillance also trigger fear and cause people to censor themselves.   

“Journalists and human rights defenders play an indispensable role in our societies, and when they are silenced, we all suffer”, she said, reminding all States that surveillance measures can only be justified in narrowly defined circumstances when necessary and proportional to a legitimate goal.  

‘Deep intrusions’ 

Given that Pegasus spyware, “as well as that created by Candiru and others, enable extremely deep intrusions into people’s devices, resulting in insights into all aspects of their lives”, the UN rights chief underscored, “their use can only ever be justified in the context of investigations into serious crimes and grave security threats.” 

If recent allegations about the use of Pegasus are even partly true, she maintained that the “red line has been crossed again and again with total impunity”. 

‘Due diligence’ 

Companies developing and distributing surveillance technologies are responsible for avoiding human rights abuses, she said, and they must take immediate steps to mitigate and remedy the damage their products are causing, or contributing to, and carry out “human rights due diligence” to ensure that they no longer play a part in “such disastrous consequences” now, or in the future. 

States also have a duty to protect individuals from privacy rights abuses by companies, she added.  

One key step in this direction is for States to require by law that the businesses meet their human rights responsibilities by becoming more transparent in their design and use of products and by putting in place effective accountability mechanisms. 

Better regulation key 

Reports also confirm “the urgent need to better regulate the sale, transfer and use of surveillance technologies and ensure strict oversight and authorization.” 

Governments should not only immediately stop using surveillance technologies in ways that violate human rights, but also “take concrete actions” to protect against such invasions of privacy by “regulating the distribution, use and export of surveillance technology created by others”, the High Commissioner said.  

Without human rights-compliant regulatory frameworks, Ms. Bachelet upheld that there are “simply too many risks” that the tools could be used to intimidate critics and silence dissent.

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