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Iran’s and Hezbollah’s missiles against Israel

Giancarlo Elia Valori

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The “precision project” of Iranian missiles, especially the Zelzal model (where the word “zelzal” means earthquake in Farsi), currently operating in the Lebanon, has reached a severe critical point.

 The “Party of God” is currently the most important non-State military actor in the world, which is certainly even more powerful than the Lebanese army itself, with at least 30,000 full-time fighters and additional 25,000 reservists.

 All very well trained by the Iranian Pasdaran, who in 1982 founded the Party with a personal decision of Imam Khomeini.

 The Zelzal missiles (and those currently available to Hezbollah are above all the Zelzal 3) are solid propellant surface-to-surface missiles, a model officially created in 2007, with a stable range of over 250 kilometres.

 According to the Iranian and Lebanese governments, these missiles have a range between 180 and 250 kilometres; a length of 9,600 millimetres; a diameter of616 millimetres; a maximum weight of the armed warhead equal to 900 kilograms and an average margin of error at arrival lower than five metres. The propellant is the HTBP, an oligomer of butadiene having the following formula.

They have a maximum weight of 1,980 kilos and operate in a maximum of 20 seconds. Their maximum service cycle is seven years.

 For the time being, the Iranian project in the Lebanon – and only for Hezbollah-entails the turning of over 14,000 Zelzal2 and 3 into high-precision missiles.

 The missile infrastructure project can convert Zelzal-2 into high-precision missiles with a unit cost – over a few hours – of approximately 5,000-10,000 US dollars. An operation that Iran has been doing for some time, also for the Houthi guerrilla warfare in Yemen.

 Obviously, this fast rapid reconversion immediately endangers Israel’s commercial, intelligence and military networks in the Red Sea, but also directly all US bases in the Greater Middle East.

 Initially Iran tried to send these missiles to the Lebanon directly via Syria, along the Iraqi-Lebanese Shiite “corridor”. Israel, however, has long been carrying out many precise air raids, capable of making the old “corridor” from Iraq to the Lebanon – the real target of Iran’s war in Syria – completely unsafe and above all making also the production of Zelzal 2 and 3missiles in Syria ineffective.

 In response, Iran launched its own technical and intelligence operation, with a view to enabling the Zelzal 2 and 3 missiles already present in the Lebanon (which are currently estimated at approximately 14,000 units) to have an autonomous and advanced GPS (and also Russian GLONASS) guidance system.

 The most important parts of these missiles are still transported, obviously disassembled, from Iran and Iraq to the Lebanon, in Hezbollah’s covert factories, both by land – in the parallel network of the Iraqi-Lebanese “corridor” – and by air from Syria, using the private commercial lines owned by the Pasdaran.

 When the missiles arrive in the Lebanese factories in the hands of Hezbollah (and the Iranian Pasdaran) – often located underground – the Zelzal 2 and 3missiles are upgraded in their intermediate control and command sector. A system is installed for GPS guidance or for the Russian satellite system, a new integrated command and control system. All this basically regards the turning of a Zelzal 2 into a new Fateh 110 missile.

 The Fateh 110 is precisely a short-range Iranian missile, usable on land-based mobile launchers, always with solid propellant.

 Probably it also incorporates Chinese-made guidance systems and has, however, a length of 8.86 metres; a diameter of 0.61 metres; a weight at launch of 3,450 kilos and a maximum charge of 500 kilos, as well as a maximum operating range of 300 kilometres.

 It is not yet completely clear how many Zelzal 2missiles turned into Fateh 110 are now available to Hezbollah, but it is thought that the “Party of God” currently has approximately 150 high-precision missiles.

 However, the Lebanese Zelzal 2missiles not yet upgraded are supposed to be 14,000.

 It should be recalled that Hezbollah has already attacked with missiles the refinery in Haifa – fortunately without repeating the 1947 massacre – some Israeli air bases, the areas near the nuclear reactor of Dimona, and the Kirya military base of the Israeli Armed Forces, as well as the IDF headquarters in Tel Aviv.

 Hence, this is the problem: while it is certainly true that Israel has the maximum coverage at missile level, it is equally true that absolute protection is no longer possible.

 It is therefore tragically probable that, in the future, the Israeli Defence may be forced to choose between the protection of critical infrastructure and the protection of the most populated centres.

 The best strategic solution for Israel can be a direct preventive attack into the Lebanon, which would lead to a full outbreak with the Lebanon, but also with Syria, with the Sunni groups operating there, with Iran and with a share of Shiite militants from Iraq already stationing on the Bekaa-Golan border.

One of the current Israeli strategies, however, is to maintain a focus of international attention and intelligence on Hezbollah’s missiles and to disclose, at the same time, much accurate intelligence data, capable of assessing and checking the danger of this new composition of forces on the Israeli borders.

 Incidentally, however, are we really sure that Iran wants to start destroying the Jewish State – just for mere silly anti-Semitic madness – thus setting the region on fire to finally do a favour probably only to its Sunni enemies?

 As well as eventually favour a complete clash with the Iranian interests in the Lebanon and Syria of the Western forces, which would easily enter from a destabilized Israel into Iran?

  If only the Europeans were less foolish, they could also put credible pressure on Hezbollah, thus letting Hariri’s new government – that still appears friendly to Westerners -know that all this is a clear and very severe violation of the UN Resolution n. 1701.

 A pressure capable of forcing also the Russian Federation and China to become milder and more reasonable.

 Certainly, the situation is increasingly complex.

  As already said, Hezbollah owns approximately 140,000 Iranian-made missiles, hidden in private houses on the Lebanese border with Israel. According to the statistics of the last conflict between the “Party of God” and Israel in 2006, at least 14,000 of them, which are certainly Zelzal 2 and 3 missiles, can be launched at a rate between 180 and 1,200 per day.

 Obviously, the saturation of launches from the Lebanon is capable of causing damage against resources or forces, which could jeopardize Israel’s military response and its internal social stability.

 As already said, currently Hezbollah’s “precision project” is organized directly by the Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guards.

 Considering Israel’s internal structure, it is enough to hit some critical infrastructure (airports, including the civilian ones, factories, inhabited centres) and the more accurate missiles are, the fewer they are needed to achieve seriously destructive effects.

 It should be recalled, however, that Hezbollah has also SCUD 2 missiles available, always deployed in the Lebanon, which are supposed to have an operating range between 200 and 400 kilometres.

 The “Party of God” also bought from Bashar al-Assad’s Syria some M-600 Tishreen missiles, the Syrian version of the already mentioned Fateh 110,with different guidance and control systems.

 The GPS accuracy of missiles, however, is critical for their strategic effects.

 Precision missiles are such especially because they have a low Circular Error Probability (CEP).

 CEPis the radius of the circle that should enclose 50% of the points of arrival of the missiles launched.

 Hence the lower the CEP, the fewer missiles are needed to destroy a target.

 The missiles with GPS and GLONASS systems reach their target through inertial mechanisms.

 The main coordinates of the target are entered into the missile, at the time of launch, via laptop.

 GPS and GLONASS systems use accelerometers and gyroscopes that move wings and external supports on the missile surface. With immediate feedback on the route and the amount of inertia-fuel that is evaluated immediately and automatically by the missile itself.

 The solid propellant engine, however, lasts about 30 seconds and then the missile is driven by inertia.

 Corrections to the route are possible until the time of impact.

 All these Iranian missiles available to Hezbollah, however, are mobile by road.

 The non-negligible size of the missile makes it liable, for a short period, to be hit before the launch, but it is certainly a particularly difficult operation.

 The Zelzal 2 and Fateh 110missiles are similar and hence their refitting with GPS or GLONASS systems is relatively simple and entails small additional parts which are easy to transfer.

 It should be noted once again that Iran uses both the Western GPS and the Russian Glonass as satellite sensor.

 Just 2-3 hours per missile are enough to turn an old Zelzal into a precision missile, i.e. the time needed to replace the guidance system, the new surface fins and the inertial control system.

 Some hundreds of Lebanese militants for the Hezbollah missile system are trained in a special section of the Imam Husseyn University in Tehran, the official university of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, but only to upgrade the missiles, and many of the “Party of God” have already returned to the Lebanon.

 Spare parts and materials are sent to Syria and the Lebanon by land or by air, with the formally civilian airlines owned by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps.

 The new parts are stored and checked especially in the warehouses of Damascus airport, but the Syrian factories of missile parts have all been placed under the Pasdaran direct control since December 2016.

 Hence the Hezbollah logic is probably that the more missiles – even low-precision ones – are available, less possible will be for Israel to choose a preventive strategy of destruction of the arsenals before they are used.

 How much damage can such a missile -upgraded by Iran for the Lebanese Shiites – do?

 The Fateh 110missile has a 100-metre CEP and can hence destroy a standard target with a 75% probability rate.

 For urban targets in highly populated areas the Fateh 110 CEP decreases further.

 Israel is small and densely populated, with a very high distribution of critical targets between resident population and urban systems.

 Particularly important centres are located very close to each other, in an area that, on average, is about 20 kilometres wide and 100 metres deep.

 Israel has 20 energy production areas, three commercial ports and a large international airport.

 It has also the military bases of Palmahim, Tel Nof, Nevatimand Hatzor, as well as Dimona, the Haifa refinery, and the  IDF headquarters in the centre of Tel Aviv.

 The operational coverage of Hezbollah’s missile factories in the Lebanon is also varied: under a football field, just north of the Beirut airport, near the Uza’i canal and in many private houses, often of individuals not reported as Shiite militants.

 There are also Lebanese missile depots in Latakia – right near the Russian positions and, probably, in such a way as to make them also the target of an Israeli counter-operation –as well as in Safita, Hisya and, as already mentioned, in Damascus.

 It should be recalled, however, that all Israeli air raids against the launch sites, factories and areas for upgrading Hezbollah’s Iranian missiles – starting from the one of November 2017 in Hisya to the one on Jamaraya, in February 2018, until the operation on Latakia of September 2018- were carried out by Israel in full agreement with the Russian Federation.

  Nevertheless, unlike what happened in Syria, Israel has still no intention of carrying out stable preventive actions on the Lebanese territory, in a region that could quickly trigger off a major conflict with Syria, Iran, the Sunni groups and many others.

 In terms of protection and missile response, Israel can still count on the Iron Dome, a network of sensors and early warning missile batteries, with additional advanced mortar batteries – operational since 2012 – but above all operating against the old Qassam or Soviet Katiusce rockets.

 It works optimally for targets around 70-100 kilometres.

 Since 2017 Israel has also been operating David’s Sling, a medium range and medium-high charge missile network, operating up to 300 kilometres, which is useful precisely against the Fateh 110, the Zelzal 2 and 3missiles, as well as against the Syrian M-600 missiles, including those upgraded with the Iranian GPS-GLONASS. Israel also owns the Arrow 2 network, with ballistic missiles having a long range of over 200 kilometres, which has been operating since 2000. Finally, since 2017 Israel has also been operating Arrow 3, a network of sensors and missiles with a range over 200 kilometres and spatial guidance in their final trajectory phase.

 However, there is still a problem.

 The anti-missile networks, even the most specialized and modern such as the Israeli ones, can be quickly saturated by a very high rate of almost simultaneous launches and by missile decoding actions in flight, which can blind or otherwise limit the full anti-missile response.

 While it is true that Israel has no difficulty in selecting missiles targeted to critical areas of its territory, or those targeted to irrelevant areas, it is equally true that the interceptors are extremely expensive to be placed on site, infinitely more expensive than the missiles they have to intercept, especially if they are short-range missiles.

 Hence, in a tragic future, the Jewish State might be forced to choose to defend only the critical infrastructure, thus leaving some populated centres overexposed.

 A politically suicidal choice for any government.

 Obviously,an unavoidable option for Israel will also be to bring the war – probably not just the air one – into the Lebanon, with evident cascading effects for all the forces present in the region.

Therefore it is fully rational that the Israeli government has made the choice of creating a new IDF “missile Corps” to  specifically face this new type of threat, which will come  from the North, but also from the South, from the Gaza Strip and, possibly, from the jihadist networks now controlling the Sinai region.

 Iran’s technology in the field of missile precision guidance, however, comes from the US Paveway IV (CEP 15 metres, 70,000 US dollars per missile), which is a missile incorporating a dual communication system, carrying out anti-jamming activity on the GPS network (but not on GLONASS), and a semi-active laser guidance.

 Currently Great Britain uses the Brimstone, with a CEP lower than one metre and a particularly advanced laser guidance system.

 Great Britain has also the Exactor 2 available, a multirole missile with a 30-kilometre range.

 A system that is almost completely automated.

 All technologies also available to Iran.

 The fast reverse engineering of the allied and Western materials found in Syria worked miracles for Iran.

 According to Israeli sources, the cost of the new Iranian project on precision missiles in the Lebanon should total 17 billion US dollars, all invested in Hezbollah’s networks only.

 Currently the final unit cost per missile is expected to be 10,000 US dollars.

 As disclosed by various intelligence sources, however, the Lebanese program still has only 250 missiles already operational, as demonstrated by the documentary film produced by the Lebanese Shiite group, which shows an IDF border patrol, the 401th armoured brigade, hit in an accident occurred four years ago.

 It is strange: the Israeli patrol had an M4 Windbreaker tank available, which has a significant passive and active anti-missile defence. Hence Hezbollah, however, has correctly inferred that Israel has currently the ability to send units by land to the Lebanese territory to bring the confrontation to  the Lebanese Shiite region.

 Which is exactly what Hezbollah does not want at all.

 Both the Israeli military services and the Israeli Armed Forces, however, have explicitly stated that Hezbollah “has not yet the industrial capacity to turn the missiles supplied by Iran into precision missiles”.

 For the time being, however, the “Party of God” is supposed to have 90-250 missiles available, already prepared for high-precision actions.

 It is not what Iran and Hezbollah need to carry out the missile saturation operation they have in mind.

 It should also be considered that the “Party of God” normally fails at least 10% of launches, while currently the international standard is 4% for small and medium-sized missiles.

 Hence with 50% of the missiles stopped at departure or in flight by Israeli forces – as always happens – finally only 50 of the 250 missiles upgraded by Iran could be currently launched and become really dangerous for Israel.

 The political and strategic effect would remain anyway, considering the population density and the complexity of the Israeli defence and infrastructure system.

 Therefore the problem is not solved anyway by waiting.

 Hence both Iran and Hezbollah have recently decided to confine the upgrade program only to the 14,000 Zelzal 2 missiles already present and operational, without updates, in the Lebanese Shiite group’s arsenal.

 Here again, however, there are many problems.

 New factories are needed, with a piece-by-piece process that turns a Zelzal 2 or 3 into a Fateh 110missile, which has a 300-kilometre range.

  Which is exactly what the Iranian and Lebanese Shiites need in the first missile salvo.

 Nevertheless, while Iran has already produced4,000 new high-precision missiles in the above mentioned university research centres in Tehran, so far only 1,000 have safely reached the Lebanon.

 Another problem for Hezbollah and the Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps is the inevitably significant areas needed to upgrade the missiles both in Syria and in the Lebanon.

 All areas already hit by Israeli attacks that, however, are still limited and well-known.

The few factories that have recently been operational in Syria and the Lebanon have already been hit by Israeli air strikes.

 Hence, for the time being, Hezbollah has solved the problem by distributing the missiles to be upgraded to small and widespread factories, located throughout Southern Lebanon, and the few ones still existing in Syria.

 This means that the process for upgrading the missiles becomes slower, more difficult and hence less qualitatively significant.

 Therefore, the previously mentioned costs increase proportionately to the difficulties of technical upgrading. Hence, if the upgraded missiles cost at least 11,000 US dollars each, the total technological upgrade of Hezbollah’s missiles will be worth at least 145 million US dollars.

 Therefore, everything is resolved in the standard time needed for the Iranian upgrade and for Israeli response and certainly for a new possible indirect agreement between Israeli and Syria, not mediated – today, as in the 1990s – by the United States.

 A tacit agreement that is worth, today, in a framework of agreements between Syria itself, which got its grip on the Lebanon and currently cannot hold it any longer, and Israel itself, which could accept – after a credible threat on Hezbollah- a Russian or even US mediation on the current equilibria in the Lebanon.

Advisory Board Co-chair Honoris Causa Professor Giancarlo Elia Valori is an eminent Italian economist and businessman. He holds prestigious academic distinctions and national orders. Mr. Valori has lectured on international affairs and economics at the world’s leading universities such as Peking University, the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and the Yeshiva University in New York. He currently chairs “International World Group”, he is also the honorary president of Huawei Italy, economic adviser to the Chinese giant HNA Group. In 1992 he was appointed Officier de la Légion d’Honneur de la République Francaise, with this motivation: “A man who can see across borders to understand the world” and in 2002 he received the title “Honorable” of the Académie des Sciences de l’Institut de France. “

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Suppressed OPCW Finding: War-Crime Likely Perpetrated by U.S. Against Syria on 14 April 2018

Eric Zuesse

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On May 13th, Tim Hayward of the Working Group on Syria made public on his website an utterly damning document that had been suspiciously excluded from the final investigative report by the Organization for Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) regarding the U.S.-and-allied allegation that on 7 April 2018 the Syrian Government had sarin-attacked residents in its town of Douma and had killed a large number of non-combatants. Seven days after that alleged incident, the U.S. and two of its allies, UK and France, massively missile-invaded Syria on April 14th, in alleged international ‘response’ to that alleged national war-crime on the part of Syria’s Government. It now turns out that that alleged national war-crime was totally staged by America’s own proxy-soldiers, Islamic terrorists who were trying to overthrow Syria’s Government, and so the attack against Syria on 14 April 2018 by U.S., UK and France, constitutes an international war-crime, an unequivocal violation of the U.N.’s Charter. 

This excluded finding by the OPCW is proof that “the US Government’s Interpretation of the Technical Intelligence It Gathered Prior to and After the August 21 Attack CANNOT POSSIBLY BE CORRECT”. That’s the way an independent detailed study by the two top U.S. experts had concluded their study of the U.N.’s evidence concerning the U.S.-and-allied allegations that there had been a 21 August 2013 sarin-attack by the Syrian Government against its town of East Ghouta. Their finding then was virtually identical regarding that U.S.-alleged sarin-use by Syria’s Government — identical to this recent OPCW finding. And that finding regarding the earlier ‘incident’ likewise was suppressed, instead of reported by the ‘news’-media. The two investigators in that earlier report, which was issued on 14 January 2014, were MIT’s Ted Postol and Richard Lloyd.

The clearest summary-report about the newer suppressed finding was “signed by Ian Henderson (an investigative team leader for the OPCW” and is best summarized by Kit Knightly’s May 14th “Leaked Report: Douma ‘Chemical Attack’ Likely Staged” at Off-Guardian.org (a terrific website of investigative journalism that exposes lies by mainstream ‘news’-media, such as Britain’s Guardian). As Knightly especially pointed out, that OPCW investigative team’s report to OPCW had concluded: 

“In summary, observations at the scene of the two locations, together with subsequent analysis, suggest that there is a higher probability that both cylinders were manually placed at those two locations rather than being dropped.”

As we shall later show, that statement at the end of the OPCW team’s report, was a huge understatement: they had, in fact, proven that “both cylinders were manually placed at those two locations [by the anti-Government side, as a set-up to stage the event and blame it on the Government] rather than being dropped [by a plane, from the Government, as the U.S. alleged].”

So: that’s virtually a clone of the earlier Postol-Lloyd finding regarding the 13 August 2013 incident, except that, whereas the earlier incident was real and had been carried out by America’s Syrian proxy-forces (fanatic Islamists), this more recent ‘incident’ was (as now is clear not only from the latest revelation) entirely staged by the U.S.-and-allied side. It had not existed at all.

Obviously, if that finding is confirmed by an international tribunal not for internal war-crimes but for international war-crimes, then Donald Trump, Theresa May, and Emmanuel Macron, could be sentenced to prison, or worse, but is there any tribunal anywhere that could handle such cases? Almost certainly not. Leaders, such as those, stand above any law. And isn’t that the real problem here?

On 17 May 2019, Russia’s Tass news agency headlined “Militants preparing provocation with chemical weapons in Syria” and reported that, “Militants from Jebhat al-Nusra terrorist group (banned in Russia) are preparing a provocation to accuse Russian servicemen of using chemical weapons in Syria, the Russian Center for reconciliation of the conflicting sides said on Friday [May 17th].” Jabhat al-Nusra is Syria’s branch of Al Qaeda, and U.S. President Barack Obama’s efforts to overthrow the Syrian Government depended very heavily upon that organization to train the non-Kurdish proxy-forces that the U.S. regime and its press called ‘rebels’ instead of jihadists (which they actually were). The U.S. armed and protected al-Nusra.

Back on 13 February 2018, less than two months prior to the faked 7 April 2018 Douma chemical ‘attack’, Russia’s RT had headlined “Tip-off received on Al-Nusra, White Helmets plotting chemical weapons provocation in Syria – Moscow”, and reported that:

Russia’s Center for Reconciliation in Syria says it’s been warned that Jabhat Al-Nusra terrorists brought in chlorine containers to a local village, where they aimed to work with the White Helmets to stage “a provocation.” … According to the source, on the afternoon of February 12, rebels from the Jabhat Al-Nusra (Al-Nusra Front) terrorist organization brought three cars packed with more than 20 cylinders of chlorine along with personal protective equipment to Serakab. Additionally, according to the caller, representatives of the local branch of the White Helmets, wearing individual means of protection, conducted rehearsals of “giving first aid” to “local residents” who were supposedly suffering from poisoning.”

That appears to have been an accurate description of what the OPCW investigators found in Douma after the faked 7 April 2018 incident there. However U.S.-allied press didn’t report anything of the kind, neither before nor after that faked incident. The reality was suppressed instead of reported there. The latest suppressed finding by the OPCW is a repeat of that pattern.

Further indication of how clear the evidence actually is that the 7 April 2018 Douma incident was staged has been presented by the excruciatingly detailed May 12th document from the team of Paul McKeigue, David Miller, and Piers Robinson, headlined “Assessment by the engineering sub-team of the OPCW Fact-Finding Mission investigating the alleged chemical attack in Douma in April 2018”. It explains “that the cylinders were manually placed in position is ‘the only plausible explanation for observations at the scene’,” BECAUSE (and this is quoting now directly from paragraph 32 of the OPCW Engineer’s suppressed report of his team’s findings) “The dimensions, characteristics and appearance of the cylinders, and the surrounding scene of the incidents, were inconsistent with what would have been expected in the case of either cylinder being delivered from an aircraft. In each case the alternative hypothesis produced the only plausible explanation for observations at the scene.” 

The full paragraph 32 opened by saying that “At this stage the FFM engineering sub-team cannot be certain that the cylinders at either location arrived there as a result of being dropped from an aircraft.” But when it went on to say “In each case the alternative hypothesis produced the only plausible explanation for observations at the scene,” that “alternative hypothesis” referred to the alternative to the cylinder’s “being dropped from a plane.” That “alternative hypothesis” refers to people on the ground having placed it there. That “alternative hypothesis” referred to the event’s having been staged by people on the ground. That “alternative hypothesis” referred to the U.S. side’s proxy-forces — America’s ‘Syrian rebels’) having staged this event and filmed its alleged aftermath so that the U.S.-UK-led White Helmets could then feed it to the U.S.-and-allied ’news’-media so as to enrage their publics against Syria’s Government enough for those publics to think that the subsequent U.S.-and-allied bombing of Syria, On 14 April 2018, was a ‘humanitarian’ action.

The OPCW’s Engineering team stated there, very clearly, that the U.S.-and-allied allegations that those cylinders had been dropped from a plane or planes “CANNOT POSSIBLY BE CORRECT,” as Postol and Lloyd had previously said about the U.S.-and-allied alleged Syrian Government 21 August 2013 sarin gas attack against East Ghouta. This is a tactful way of saying that the U.S. and its allied regimes had lied about it.

Britain’s Daily Mail headlined on May 16th “Strange News from the OPCW”, and Peter Hitchens, at his blog there, reported that “I have received the following reply from the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons.” It said that, “the OPCW Technical Secretariat is conducting an internal investigation about the unauthorised release of the document in question.” This had been an “unauthorized release”; no question was being raised as to the document’s authenticity.

Who will get the rope to hang Trump, May, and Macron? Of course, nobody. This is the type of world we are living in. Accountability and punishment are only downward, to the individuals below (and many of them are railroaded); credit and rewards are only upward, to the masters above; and so there is no ultimate downside for the people at the very top to perpetrate any crime. There really is no legal jeopardy for people in the positions of Trump, May, and Macron. Such people administer whatever laws actually apply to themselves. There is no accountability for such people, in our world. They are above the reach of any law. And their press say that they are a free press, and that their nation is a democracy. Has the term “democracy” now lost all significant meaning? Or is everything that’s important now, just propaganda, just lies? Is that what we should expect? How can democracy even function under such conditions? It obviously can’t.

The lengthy presentation and analysis of this Engineering report, that the group to which the document had been leaked issued, closed by saying “We thank the OPCW staff members who have communicated with us at considerable personal risk.” All of the decent people there must be terrified, much like a woman who has just been raped is. But this is on a much bigger scale.

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Central Asian Jihadi Groups Joined Taliban’s “Al-Fath Jihadi Operations”

Uran Botobekov

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Al Qaeda-backed jihadist groups Katibat Imam al Bukhari (KIB), the Islamic Jihad Union (IJU) and the Turkestan Islamic Party (TIP), consisting mainly of Uzbeks from the Fergana Valley of Central Asia and Uyghurs of Chinese Xinjiang, jointly conduct “Al-Fath Jihadi Operations” alongside the Taliban in Afghanistan amid the US-Taliban negotiation. KIB’s online media channel “Katibat Imam al-Bukhari under the Islamic Emirateof Afghanistan” that implies a Taliban’s subsidiary began to regularly publish news about the “victorious offensives of the warriors of Islam.” As well as IJU’s main two social media channels Badr at-Tawhid and al-Sodiqlar TV (al-Sodiqlar in Uzbek, which means ‘The Truthful’) often release videos featuring both the Taliban and IJU on the joint battleground.

For example, on April 14, 2019, KIB’s Telegram channel reported that “al Bukhari’s Mujahideen of the Islamic Emirate attacked enemy positions and killed 36 militaries of the Kabul administration, among which 4 were high-ranking commanders.”As evidence of its successful attack, KIB published video and photo materials. Another report, dated May 3, 2019, states that “Mujahideen of our Jamaat blew up the Ranger vehicle in Zabul province as a result 7 government soldiers were killed.”

Telegram’s online channel also published an audio message by the emir of the KIB’s Afghan division Jumabai Hafizahulloh, who calls on the Mujahideen to “commit Istighfar (the act of seeking forgiveness from Allah) to defeat foreign invaders led by the United States of Satan and establish Sharia law in Afghanistan.”In his speech, he frequently refers to religious works of the famous Sunni Muslim scholar Ibn Taymiyyah whose worldviews influenced the development of Salafism and Takfirism and became the basis of the ideology of al Qaeda and ISIS. At the end of the speech, he called on all Muslims to join the jihad against the “American occupiers.”

According to audio and video materials distributed by al-Sodiqlar TV on Telegram, Uzbek militants of IJU have frequently taken part in “Al-Fath Jihadi Operations” alongside the Taliban, fighting against Afghan security forces. For example, on April 14, 2019, IJU released a video showing how Uzbek militants under the leadership of the Taliban attacking an Afghan security forces’ convoy in Baghlan province’s capital Puli Khumri and seizing heavy trucks on the Baghlan-Balkh highway, part of the Ring Road which links Kabul to the north.

TIP, KIB and IJU’s videos in Telegram once again reaffirmed al Qaeda-backed Central Asian jihadists’ role within the Taliban insurgency, as the jihadists fight together to resurrect the Taliban’s Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan.

Features of the Taliban military operation

As is known, the Taliban annually conducts military operations under various formidable names that have an ideological and religious implication. In 2018, its military action was called ‘Al Khandaq Jihadi Operations’ (from the name of the famous Battle of Khandaq led by the Prophet Mohammed in 627), which also involved Sunni violent extremist groups: Uyghurs’ TIP and Uzbeks’ KIB. On April 12, 2019, the Taliban announced the launch of a new “Al-Fath Jihadi Operations” (which means Victory), which was published on the website ‘Voice of Jihad’ of ‘the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan’ (Taliban so refers to itself).

A distinctive feature of “Al-Fath Jihadi Operations” from previous military actions is that the Taliban this year applies new tactics of attacks aimed against the government and municipal officials, the military and police forces of Afghanistan, and does not prioritize attacks on US and NATO forces. Perhaps that is why the Taliban-backed Uzbek and Uyghur jihadist groups often report on successful military operations, as local officials and government offices in remote provinces become an easy target for them.

Another distinguishing feature of “Al-Fath Jihadi Operations” that it is conducted against the backdrop of US-Taliban peace talks. Trump administration’s decision to pull American forces out of Afghanistan and begin direct peace talks between the US and the Taliban without inviting official Kabul inspired the Taliban to tighten the “al-Fath Jihadi Operations”, and was ablow to the morale of Afghan generals. The Taliban are already stronger today than they have been since their ouster in 2001, controlling or holding sway over 60 percent of Afghanistan’s districts. Therefore, they in advance methodically and cynically rejectedLoya Jirga (Afghan grand assembly) demands for a cease-fire and shunned direct talks with the Afghan government, describing it with insulting terms like “a US-imposed puppet regime,” “domestic stooges,” “the hollow Kabul administration” and “cabinet offoreign invaders “.

The main topics of Doha’s peace talks between US peace envoy for Afghanistan Zalmay Khalilzad and co-founder of the Taliban, Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, were the full withdrawal of foreign forces from Afghanistan and ensuring that Afghanistan is not used as a base for foreign terrorist organizations, above all for al Qaeda and ISIS, to attack other countries.

After the completion of the sixth round of negotiations, Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid, in a May 9 statement, assessed the outcome of the meeting as “positive” and the parties made “progress” on some points. But the activities of al Qaeda-linked Central Asian Salafi-Jihadi groups KIB, IJU and TIP in Afghanistan and their active participation in “al-Fath Operations” testified, there is not any “progress” to cut the Taliban’s cooperation with al Qaida.

To achieve international recognition the Taliban in July 2016 issued a statement for the Central Asian countries, in which it assured its neighbors that “the Islamic Emirate does not seek to interfere in the internal affairs of others nor will it allow anyone to use the land under the control of Islamic Emirate against anyone else.” During the Moscow Conference in February 2019, the Taliban reiterated “we do not allow anyone to use the soil of Afghanistan against other countries including neighboring countries.”

But all these false claims are a political ploy aimed at hiding the Taliban’s ties with al Qaeda and its Central Asian affiliates. The KIB, IJU and TIP’s media arm has shown the Taliban keeps using the Uzbek and Uyghur jihadists against West Coalition and Afghan forces, and collaborating with al Qaeda inside Afghanistan, despite assurances to the contrary.

Taliban and al Qaida are the “godfathers” of Uzbek and Uyghur jihadist groups

As is known, the first contact between Uyghur and Uzbek Islamists with the Taliban and al Qaeda occurred in the early 1990s, when members of the Eastern Turkistan Islamic Movement (ETIM) and the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, pursued by the Chinese and Uzbek authorities, fled to Afghanistan. Since then, the Taliban and al Qaeda became the “godfathers” of the Central Asian Islamist groups and widely opened the doors of global jihad for them.

The Taliban have been continuously working alongside Uzbek and Uyghur jihadist groups that have sworn allegiance both to al Qaeda and the Taliban, and today this bayat (an oath of allegiance) is effectively operating. In turn, the leaders of al Qaeda bin Laden and Ayman al Zawahiri both swore allegiance to the Taliban, with the result that IMU and TIP (former ETIM) were under double tutelage and control. Although the Taliban staunchly focused on Afghanistan and has not demonstrated al-Qaeda’s global jihadist ambitions outside the country, nevertheless, it continues to host Uzbek and Uyghur militant groups with far-reaching goals.

Under the influence of “godfathers,” ideological views of Uzbek and Uyghur militants expanded significantly with global aspirations. Today, they are not limited to the local agendas to overthrow the political regimes in Central Asia and China and set themselves global tasks to create a world caliphate.

Recently the UN Security Council in its twenty-second comprehensive report confirmed: “The Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan still commands about 500 fighters in Afghanistan, concentrated in Faryab, Sari Pul, Jowzjan, Kunduz, Baghlan, Takhar and Badakhshan provinces. Around another 500 Central Asian fighters are distributed between Khatibat Imam Al-Bukhari, Katibat al Tawhid wal Jihad, Islamic Jihad Union… The Eastern Turkistan Islamic Movement commands 400 fighters in Badakhshan” (page 15-16, section “Central and South Asia”).

This Russian and Turkic-speaking terrorist groups are trusted by al Qaeda and Taliban leaders and have become a link in their strategic ties. In different years, TIP, IMU and IJU were added to the United Nations Security Council Sanctions List as being associated with al Qaeda and the Taliban. In addition, the US State Department designated all of these Central Asian jihadist groups, including Katibat al-Imam Bukhari, as “global terrorist organizations” because of their involvement in terrorist attacks alongside the Taliban and al Qaeda.

The Taliban nervously reacts when Central Asian groups break their bayat al Qaeda and considers betrayal an unforgivable crime. In December 2015, the Taliban captured and executed about 60 Uzbek jihadists led by IMU leader Usmon Ghazi in the Zabul province who broke al-Qaeda oath and pledged to Islamic State.

Sometimes the Taliban, as befits a good “godfather,” forgive Central Asian militants who violated their oath to al Qaeda. After the Taliban’s elimination of the self-proclaimed Islamic State Khorasan Province (ISIS branch in Afghanistan) in the northern Afghan province of Jawzjan,20 Central Asian fighters (citizens of Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Kazakhstan, and Kyrgyzstan)from Qari Hikmatullah’s ISIS network, who surrendered to the Taliban, were evacuated, along with their families, to Kohistanat district of Sar-e Pul province. Today they serve the Taliban, who has become their new master.

Taliban’s religious roots in support foreign terrorist groups

As the US Special Representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation ZalmayKhalilzad stated in March 2019, the US and the Taliban “agreed in draft”that covers two key issues: a “Coalition’s withdrawal timeline” and “effective counterterrorism measures.”According to this “draft”, the Taliban would provide “counter-terrorism assurances” that Afghanistan would not be used as a base for terrorist groups to attack foreign countries.

Despite the Taliban’s generous promises, after it comes to power in the future (judging by the tone of the negotiations, today’s events are developing precisely in this vein), there are no guarantees that the Taliban will renounce al Qaeda and stop supporting Central Asian Salafi-Jihadi groups. The problem is not the reluctance of the Taliban, but in its radical Islamist ideology and Sharia law, according to which the framework of relations between Ansar [natives] and Muhajireen [foreign fighters] are clearly outlined.

As is known from the history of Islam, mutual relations between Ansar and Muhajireen relies on Islamic values when the local inhabitants [Ansar] of Medina warmly welcomed, provided shelter and supported the Prophet Muhammad and his followers [Muhajireen], who had left their homes behind for widespread Islam during the fight against unbelievers in 622.

The Surahs of the Qur’an, Al-Anfal [8:72] and Al-Hashr [59:9], detail the responsibilities of the Ansar and Muhajireen relationship. For example, Al-Anfal obliges Ansar to help Muhajireen: “Indeed, those who have believed and emigrated and fought with their wealth and lives in the cause of Allah and those who gave shelter and aided – they are allies of one another. But those who believed and did not emigrate – for you there is no guardianship of them until they emigrate. And if they seek help of you for the religion, then you must help, except against a people between yourselves and whom is a treaty.”

As the ups and downs of the Taliban rule showed, the Taliban is strict followers of the Ansar doctrine. During the rule of the Taliban, its territory, so-called “Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan” became the main shelter for Muhajireen of al Qaeda and other foreign terrorist groups. Central Asian Islamists massively migrated there. During the reign of the Taliban, IMU in 1999-2000 twice attacked southern Kyrgyzstan. These fighting clashes went down in history under the name of the Batken War, during which more than 50 soldiers of the Kyrgyz army were killed.

The ties between the Taliban and al Qaeda proved to be so strong that after 9/11 the Taliban refused to hand over the main terrorist Bin Ladin to the US. There is much evidence, including joining Central Asian jihadists to “Al-Fath Jihadi Operations”, that the Taliban and al Qaeda ties remain strong. Therefore, it can be expected that in the event of the US withdrawal and the coming to power of the Taliban, Afghanistan will again become home to international terrorist groups.

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Intelligence

The Russian Mafia

Giancarlo Elia Valori

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Since 1992, the Russian word Mafyia has been officially used in the Russian Federation’s documents to refer above all to organized crime, structured through stable groups that  repeatedly perpetrate severe crimes and offences. In particular, this word refers to the interests of the world “below” – the invisible universe of organized crime – with the world “above”, namely institutions, ruling classes, politicians and companies.

  Both the real Mafia, namely the Sicilian one, and the Russian one were born around mid-19th century.

The Sicilian Mafia became the “parallel State” in a region where the Unitary State did not exist or counted for nothing. A case in point is the Baron of Sant’Agata, the feudal lord of Calatafimi, who ordered his mobsters to “side with the winners”, when he realized that Garibaldi’s troops, the so-called “Garibaldini” were winning in the plain.

  The  Sicilian “organization”, which had long-standing  roots -probably Arab and in any case independent of the Kingdom centred on Naples and the Campania region – discovered its political role precisely with Garibaldi-led Expedition of the Thousand that landed in Sicily, after which it became the primary mediator between the small group of “Piedmontese” soldiers and the great mass of peasants. It immediately agreed with the feudal lords, who helped it considering that it was winning.

The Mafia itself was both the improper bank of the wealthy feudal lords and the only form of effective social control, solely in favour of the Sicilian feudal elites – and hence also of the Unitary Kingdom.

  As happened also in Naples, when Garibaldi appointed Liborio Romano – who was also the Head of Camorra – as Chief of Police. An inevitably very effective policeman.

Conversely, in Russia organized crime was initially used –  in politics – by various revolutionary groups to fight the Tsar.

   Later, there was the magic moment of an important “friend of the people”, namely Nicholai Ishutin.

  He was the first to establish a group of professional revolutionaries, in 1864, simply called “the Organization”.

However, with a view to better achieving the revolutionary, anarchist and violent aims of his Organizacjia, Ishutin created another new structure. It was called the “Hell” and had to engage in all possible illegal activities, together with the already active criminals: murder, theft and blackmail. All this had to happen while the “Organization” was running its lawful social and organizational activities.

  Hence, for the first time politics became the cover for a criminal organization. Goodness knows how many imitators Comrade Ishutin had.

It was the beginning of a very strong bond – also at theoretical level, through many excerpts from Lenin’s texts that exalted Russian revolutionary populism – between organized crime and the Bolshevik Communist Party.

  In fact, on June 26, 1907, a bank stagecoach of the State Bank of the Russian Empire was attacked and robbed in Tiflis, Georgia. It was a robbery fully organized by top-level Bolsheviks, including Lenin and Stalin.

There was also the strong support of local criminals led by Ter-Petrosian (“Kamo”), the Head of the Georgian mob and also Stalin’s early associate.

The relationship between organized crime and Bolshevism – particularly with reference to the “agrarian reform” of 1930-1932 – remained central.

   The Soviet power absolutely needed its extra legem left hand to harshly bring peasants into line and to militarily organize the conquest of factories, as well as to control or physically eliminate the entrepreneurs or bureaucrats of the old Tsarist regime.

Everything changed with Stalin, who, together with the stabilization of the Bolshevik regime, made possible also the verticalization and creation of a unitary command hierarchy in the vast world of Russian crime – and in the Party.

  Hence the Organizatsja was founded, i.e. a strongly verticistic Panrussian structure – as indeed the Bolshevik Party was.

The “Organization” – full of symbols and particular rites, like the many para-Masonic organizations of the revolutionary Napoleonic network in Italy, which imitated the secret society of Carbonari (the so-called Carboneria) or, precisely, Freemasonry, albeit with entirely new mechanisms and symbols – was sung heroically by one of the poets, former “Thief-in-Law” (the generic term used by Stalin to designate all the members of the Organization), but much loved by Stalin, namely Mikhail Djomin, who exalted the achievements of the Vorovskoi Mir, the Thieves’ World, that had only one code of conduct and revenge throughout the USSR.

  Hence the Party established the first organizational structure of the “Thieves-in-Law”, who much operated during the Stalinist regime: the Mir “brigades” were led by a “reserve group” that generated and selected an additional covert group that had to be permanently related to the Soviet political, economic and financial power.

In fact, the “Vory v Zakone”, the Thieves-in-Law, had  relations on an equal footing with the Party and State leaders. They dealt with the various “brigades” and managed the odshak, the cash pool, through an ad hoc Committee.

  Through the odshak, said Committee mainly paid salaries to the Organization soldiers, but above all invested its proceeds in the so-called “white” economy.

 Without the criminal organizations and their autonomous finance, there would have been neither the Soviet normalization after Stalin’s purges, nor the money for  Leninist industrialization and the funds – extremely needed for the USSR – targeted to foreign trade and the related sales of raw materials from 1930 onwards.

 This also applied to the Sicilian Mafia, a true organization between two worlds, the American and the Italian ones, which invested in real estate in Sicily when there was no capital, in the aftermath of the Second World War, or refinanced capitalism in Northern Italy after the political and union storm in the late 1960s and 1970s.

 Without Mafia’s capital and without the protection provided by some entrepreneurs to the most important fugitives in Milan, there would have been no economic recovery after the disaster of 1968.

 Reverting to the Bolsheviks, Stalin accepted the presence of the “Thieves-in-Law” in their main sectors of activity, in exchange for their careful persecution of his personal and Soviet regime’s political adversaries.

 Years later, even de Gaulle did so when proposing to the Corsican underworld – one of the most ferocious in Europe – to fight the OAS and eliminate it, in exchange for some State favours and the transfer of many gangsters of the Brise de Mer – as the Corsican Mafia was called – to Marseille.

 Hence there is no modern power that could do without its particular “Thieves-in-Law”. A case in point was China, in the phase of the “Four Modernizations” and the subsequent Tiananmen Square movement, or the United States itself, which dealt primarily with its various Mafias, especially in periods of severe financial crisis.

 In the 1950s, shortly before Stalin’s death, inter alia, a very close relationship was established between the “Organization” and the Soviet power leaders.

 It was exactly the underground economy – fully in the hands of the “Thieves-in-Law”- which, in Brezhnev’s time, became the meeting point between Mafia and Communists.

 The Organizatsjia already had excellent relations with the parallel “capitalist” organizations – relations which were established upon the creation of the Russian structure in the meeting held in Lviv in 1950 – and it became essential to find the goods which were never found on the Russian market, including weapons and illicit capital flows.

 Corruption became the real axis of bureaucracy and of the Party itself, while there was a spreading of poverty that closely resembled the poverty of Ukrainian and Crimean peasants during the so-called “agrarian reform” of 1930-1931.

 Later, always in agreement with the Bolshevik leadership, Mafyia organized – in every factory or office – “clandestine units”, not falling within the scope of the collectivist system, which created an underground market that, from 1980 to 1991, was even worth 35-38% of the Soviet GDP.

 The proceeds from that semi-clandestine trade were shared between the Party, the “Organization” and the law enforcement agencies. No one could escape that mechanism.

 Again in the 1980s, precisely due to the social and political pervasiveness of the “Thieves-in-Law”, the Organizatsjia was structured into units for each commodity sector, especially with units specialized in oil, minerals, wood, precious stones and even caviar.

 At that stage, however, many Soviet Party and State leaders were officially accepted in the Organizatsjia, thus becoming the necessary link between the “Thieves-in-Law” and the institutions.

 Furthermore, with Gorbachev’s reforms, Mafyia was no longer only an important part of the economic system,but became the economic system in its entirety.

The elimination of the old political apparatus and fast privatizations enabled the old leaders of the various “clandestine units” to quickly collect the initial capital to buy everything going from companies onto the now apparently liberalized market.

 Sometimes Mafia’s intimidation was also needed, when the old employees did not want to assign – for a few roubles – their shares that the law allowed to be allotted between workers and managers of the old State-owned factories.

 In 1992 Yeltsin himself admitted that over two thirds of the Russian production and commercial structure were in the hands of the “Organization”.

 However, in memory of the old ties with similar organizations abroad, only Mafyia did start the first joint-venture contracts with Western companies and 72% of that opening onto the world market was only the work of the Organizatsija.

  That was exactly what Judge Falcone would have dealt with in Russia with his Russian colleague Stepankov, if he had not been killed with his wife and three agents of his escort in a bomb attack.

  The joint venture worked as follows: firstly, foreign capitalists put their money into the companies of the “Organization” and later – without realising it and only with the hard ways – they were in the hands of the old “Thieves-in-Law”.

  Nevertheless, it was from 1990 to 1992 that the Russian Mafia structure penetrated the West with vast illegal funds managed together with the local Mafias.

 Not surprisingly, a few days after the Capaci bombing, Giovanni Falcone was to fly to Russia to talk with the Russian Prosecutor General, Valentin Stepankov, who was investigating into the CPSU funds that had disappeared in the West.

 The intermediary of the operation could only be the “Organization” that knew the Sicilian Mafia very well, at least since the aforementioned meeting held in Lviv in 1950.

  A huge amount of money went from the CPSU to the “sister” parties and probably the issue regarded also the failed coup against Gorbachev in August 1991.

 Each CPSU faction had its autonomous funds – often huge ones – given to “sister” parties but, above all, to their most similar internal wings. Here a significant role was played by the covert bank accounts held in Zurich, together with the Wednesday air transfers to the local Narodny Bank, as well as the money transfers that took place during the visits of the CPSU executives to the various local “comrades”.

 Nevertheless, the cash flows -managed only by the Organization -were regarded by the CPSU’s “old guard” mainly as a source of personal survival and a basis for future political action at national level. Everyone, ranged face to face upon the field of the new CPSU factions, thought to said cash flows.

 Coincidentally, it was exactly in those years and months that the Sicilian Mafia expanded – for its drug business – to the Caucasus and Anatolian Turkey, on the border with the new Russian Federation.

 At that time – as currently – the Russian Mafyia had preferential relations with the Sicilian Mafia, the Neapolitan Camorra, the Chinese triads and the Turkish Mafia.

 Also the relations with Latin American and Arab criminal organizations have been mediated by Sicilians or Calabrians (in South America), Turks (in Central Asia and India) and Chinese (in Maghreb and Africa).

 Currently the Organization’s yearly turnover is still 2,000 billion roubles approximately, with weapons – including nuclear ones – which were provided by the Mafyia sections within the Soviet and later Russian Armed Forces.

 As even Luciano Violante – the former President of an important anti-Mafia Parliamentary Committee –  maintained, both the CPSU and the KGB have long had  excellent relations with the Sicilian Mafia. The Russian Mafyia itself is now the world centre where money laundering strategies, as well as the division of territories at international level and the new strategies of relations with the various ruling classes, are managed.

 Violante used to say that the CPSU and the KGBhad put in place the most recent Russian Mafia, with which they were gradually confused.

 Hence the new post-Soviet oligarchy – selected after Mafia wars that,between 1990 and 1995, exacted a toll of 30,000 victims – has now merged with the ruling class.

As Solzhenitsyn used to say, currently in Russia a maximum of 150 people rules. Putin deals with the “Organization”, but he is certainly not linked to it.

 Furthermore, according to the most reliable Russian sources, currently the “Thieves-in-Law” network is composed of about 50,000 people, including managers and mere “soldiers”.

  Nevertheless, their network of intimidation and capital makes them essential in carrying out any kind of “white” operation. They are the bank of the new Russia, considering that all the official banks are part of the “Organization”.

  In the Russian media jargon, the Russian Mafia bosses who have reinvented themselves in the legal business are called avtoritet(“authorities”).

 The Russian Mafyia also operate abroad, throughout Europe, but does not operate directly in the territory of the various countries. If anything, it seeks relations with the State and bureaucracy, through the national criminal networks, without by-passing them.

 Currently the Russian money laundering hub is still France, while recently the “Organization” has been spreading quickly within the German economic, banking and commercial fabric.

 In Italy, it operates mainly in Emilia-Romagna, Tuscany and, obviously, Rome.

 According to the Italian police sources, the capital flows of the Russian “Organization” in Italy are equal to 38.5 billion a year, while the flow of Russian money laundering is still focused on France, albeit with some operations made in Spain and Portugal. A diversification already underway, which could also affect Italy.

 The first channel has always been Latvia, used by Russian mobsters to enter the Euro area directly.

 With a view to penetrating Latvia, the Russian “Organization” created dummy companies based in London.

 Later a Russian company lent money to the company based in London – a company with main headquarters often located in Moldova.

 The Russian company did not repay the debt – hence a corrupt judge in Moldova forced the Russian company to transfer capital to a Moldavian account.

 Hence the money entered Latvia in a perfectly legal way and later the Euro area and Western economies.

  The network has already endangered 753 Western banks – and money laundering is still one of the primary business activities of the Russian “Organization”.

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