Monday, January 19, 2004

It's Tinfoil Hat Time! You tell me how bad this story stinks. I once took a course on the Lebanese civil war back in the late 1980's so I’ve got a little background on the subject. While I’ve followed the news there I’m hardly an expert. All I can really say is this story really reeks unless you still believe in the Tooth Fairy. Here’s the thumbnail of the story so far: Twelve million dollars worth of new Iraqi dinars (in cash) were seized by the authorities in Beirut along with three Lebanese businessmen, a pilot and a small airplane. The businessmen claim the cash came from the IGC and it was intended for purchases of security equipment. The IGC Interior Minister says the story is true, admits the money is theirs and says they want it back. The Lebanese basically told the IGC to piss up a rope. From the New York Times: “One of the men detained in Lebanon, Muhammad Issam Abu Darwish, the scion of a prominent Shiite family from southern Lebanon, told investigators that the money had come from the American-led Coalition Provisional Authority in Baghdad and was intended to buy armored cars. Mr. Darwish went to Iraq after the fall of Saddam Hussein and opened a private security company, the journalists said the prosecutor's office had told them. -snip- The impounded plane was piloted by Mazen Bsat, a prominent Beirut businessman who owns a chain of pharmacies and a company that leases planes for charter flights. With him was Mr. Darwish and Richard Jreissati, who held the portfolio for foreign affairs of the Christian right-wing Lebanese Forces Militia during the country's civil war...” Another news story with a few details the NYT left out: “The three Lebanese citizens who were onboard and were arrested are: Richard Juraysati; head of external affairs department in the dissolved Lebanese militia forces; Michel Mukataf, son-in-law of the former Lebanese president Amin al-Jumayyil; and Muhammad Abu-Darwish. While waiting for the results of the interrogation, Lebanese sources say that it is unlikely that this is a pure banking transaction due to identity of the persons involved in the case and their political affiliations. This is especially true since the money was transferred from Iraq, which is in US control, by plane to Jordan and then to Beirut airport. This raises a lot of questions regarding the role of the US forces in smuggling this money and the goal behind it. [end recording] “ An Internet reference to Richard Jreissati, his friends, background and what he’s doing these days: An Internet reference to Mazen Bsat and his charter airplane business: Some information from August 2002 on right-wing Lebanese Christian groups, their ties to American neo-cons like Richard Perle and Daniel Pipes and the Syria Accountability Act. “The system experienced a second major jolt in June, when Maronite figures in Los Angeles gathered for a Maronite World Congress. The gathering's resolutions called for a Syrian withdrawal from Lebanon, but did not stop there. Participants also voted to support the Syria Accountability Act, legislation proposed in the US Congress that would authorize a range of sanctions against Syria if the White House could not prove that Syria does not support Hizballah, import Iraqi oil, develop weapons of mass destruction or keep troops in Lebanon. The Act is also supported by the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) and the US Committee for a Free Lebanon, whose Golden Circle of "core supporters" includes former Defense Department official Richard Perle, former ambassador to the UN Jeane Kirkpatrick and pro-Israel commentator Daniel Pipes, among several others.” Some information on the Syria Accountability Act from the same source. Finally some background on the relationship between Ariel Sharon, Bashir Gemayal and the Lebanese Falangists back in the early 80's from Abu Aardvark’s blog: “Sharon's desire to crush the PLO dovetailed with the ambitions of Bashir Gemayal and the Phalange, a right wing (near fascist) Maronite Christian militia, to establish their hegemony over Lebanon. The expectation was that Gemayel would be installed as a pro-Israeli, pro-Western President who would align Lebanon accordingly. Sharon also expected the Shia to welcome the IDF as liberators, not conquerers, based on their clear and very real hatred for the Palestinians (which they did, initially - not with hugs and puppies, but with tacit acceptance... until the Israeli presence proved too oppressive and Hizbollah rose up to seize the mantle of resistance).” Scroll down to the November 5th entry. Amin Gemayal is the brother of Bashir Gemayal assassinated by a car bomb in 1982, some say by the PLO. His assassination sparked the massacres of Palestinians at Sabra and Shatilla refugee camps. Michel Mukataf is Amin’s son-in-law. Richard Juraysati is deputy president of the political council of the Lebanese Forces, a right-wing Lebanese Christian political party opposed to Syria and former foreign policy advisor to Samir Geagea. Geagea was head of LF until the Syrians locked him in jail in 1994 for crimes committed during the civil war, where he remains today. Both Mukataf and Juraysati were on that airplane with all that money from the IGC. Nobody flies around in a twin-engine Piper with $12 million in cash unless they’re corporate crooks heading to the Caymen Islands, running drugs, or funding a clandestine intelligence operation. I’d bet an enterprising journalist could find out what these guys were doing with all that money.


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