Baseball91's Weblog

January 19, 2013

On the Butt End of Cigarette Smuggling in a Middle East Jihad

In Algeria this week, Mokhtar Belmokhtar was accused of ordering an attack on a gas facility, master-minding the plot to take and kill hostages. Nicknamed “Mr Marlboro”, Belmokhtar acquired the name because of his role in Algerian cigarette-smuggling across the Sahel region to finance his jihad.

Did you see the connection between this story and the pattern of what it was that Robert Levinson had been investigating in that Kish Island hotel? Levinson was the retired FBI agent taken captive on the Iranian island of Kish, following a March 2007 meeting with Dawud Salahuddin which had been a setup. Levinson had retired in 1997 from the FBI and later became a principal at the consulting firm Business Integrity International. He had not been involved in intelligence matters with the bureau, American government officials have said.

An initial reports indicated that the US Government believed that Levinson was visiting Iran for research on a book regarding Russian organized crime. Or was this some kind of cover for what was really going on? More recent evidence suggested that he is alive and being held in Asia, according to U S Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

In five years, not one news source has written making the connection of this kidnapping to the jihad which is funded out of Iran. The Levinson family had said in 2010, that the retired FBI agent-turned-security consultant had checked into a Kish Island hotel to investigate cigarette-smuggling which had originated out of Dubai. So he was there in a cigarette smuggling case which he was working as a private investigator in Dubai. And who was paying him? Working as a private investigator, Levinson met at the Hotel Maryam with Dawud Salahuddin, the American fugitive now living in Iran. During the meeting, Iranian security personnel entered the room, detaining both Levinson and Salahuddin. Salahuddin was subsequently released. No one in his family or with his company has heard from Levinson since that time. It has been reported that Levinson never returned to his own hotel room.

In December 2007, Levinson’s wife and other family members traveled to Iran and met with officials. A year later, when she flew to the United Nations to ask questions about her husband, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad declined to meet her. Christine Levinson has said the Iranian government was polite and guaranteed her family’s security on their trip but provided no details regarding her husband’s whereabouts.

And so prior to his disappearance from the Hotel Maryam, Levinson met with Dawud Salahuddin. Would a retired FBI investigator going into the Iranian island of Kish, in a part of the world where the U. S. government had had no diplomatic relations since 1979 have an idea who Dawud Salahuddin was? From a security guard position at the Iranian interest section of theAlgerian Embassy in Washington, Dawud Salahuddin accepted an assignment on behalf of the Iranian Revolutionary government to carry out, in the Washington suburbs, a political assassination of Ali Akbat Tabatabai, a former press attache of the Shah’s regime living in exile. Dressed as a mailman, Dawud Salahuddin gunned down Ali Akbar Tabatabai at his home near the Montgomery Mall in 1980. The assassination in Bethesda, Maryland was carried out by David Theodore Belfield, an American now using the name Hassan Abdulrahman – formerly known by a name he took at his conversion at age 18 to Islam which was Dawud Salahuddin — which is when he first got involved with Islamist radical movements in the United States. Dawud Salahuddin then fled the United States in July 1980. It had been in November 1979 when Islamic Revolutionary Guards overtook the U.S. Embassy.

And so the story this week in Algeria about “Mr Marlboro”, about ongoing Algerian cigarette-smuggling across the Sahel region to finance a jihad. With a lot more fatalities and a lot more general interest that Robert Levinson never got.

Following the revolution in 1979, Iran was reshaped with the methods used by Lenin, against old-time religions. And now Russia with the largest Muslim population in absolute numbers in all of Europe, facing the political aims of so many of its long disenfranchised citizens, in the secular world. With his 30 year career, Robert Levinson, a knowledgeable expert on Russian organized crime, surely recognized the connections.

The movement in the story of always mobile population: Muslim population in Russia is geographically concentrated in two of the seven federal districts — the Volga and Southern districts. Four-in-five Muslims in Russia reside in Dagestan, Bashkortostan, Tatarstan, Chechnya and Kabardino- Balkaria, for now. So allied with Russia, on the surface, Syria; allied with Syria below the surface, Iran and Russia amid all the collapse.

Yes, Russia, with higher Muslim fertility directly related to the fact that Muslim women marry in larger numbers and divorce less often than other women in Russia — spending longer periods of their lives in union, with childbearing more likely. Although the abortion rate in Russia is still among the highest in the world (45% of all pregnancies in Russia end in abortion), Muslim women have, research suggests, fewer abortions on average than other women in Russia. On fertility issues, a Muslim population in Russia is expected to increase with nearly half of the country’s Muslims under the age of thirty.

There was a connection in the stories of Robert Levinson, a knowledgeable expert on Russian organized crime, to all of these goings on: to terror and rebellion and organized crime, about Russia and Iran. And the financing of the movements. And about the demographics concerning how revolutions are won.

Post Script June 2015: If you relied on the jargon of American journalism, you might have missed like I did, that Mokhtar would never have been funded by money from Iran. He was in Libya with Ansar al-Sharia, fighting for the cause of Sharia Law. Often described as being synonymous with Wahhabism, his Salafi movement within Sunni Islam references a doctrine known as Salafism. The term “salaf” is used to identify the earliest Muslims, with the word meaning “predecessors” or “ancestors.” The ideology believes that the ancestors were most pure. As only a Sunni Muslim. (The center of Wahhabism is not far from the Saudi capital city.)

And the confusion in the Middle East is over the shift of American foreign policy, particularly in the second term of the Obama Administration, away from both Israel and Saudi Arabia, toward Iran. It was the “gangster jihadi”, first smuggling cigarettes and then forming this armed militia called ISIS that showed their colors as evolving from the Wahhabis who are the pillar of the kingdom of Saudi Arabia. Mokhtar split from the Islamic Mahgreb (AQIM) to found the group, Those Who Sign In Blood, fighting for the cause of Sharia Law.

The “Marboro Man” was no “Islamist” but in the movement of Salafism against everyone who was not. This is what is at the heart of Sunni Islam, centered in Saudi Arabia. It was never his “ties to Libyan militants” but his ties to the Saudis for most of his life which is why the US has linked the 2012 attack on the US consulate in Benghazi, causing the shift in policy. But covering up the policy change.

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5 Comments »

  1. From a story in the New York Daily News in May 2013: “A ring of 15 men of Palestinian origin headed by two Ocean City, Maryland brothers, Basel Ramadan, 42, and Samir Ramadan, 40, was accused by New York attorney general Eric Schneiderman and New York City police commissioner Ray Kelly at a press conference of smuggling more than $55 million in sales of untaxed cigarettes cartons from Virginia, to be sold in grocery stores across New York. According to a 224-count indictment, the men are charged with enterprise corruption, money laundering and other tax crimes. The ring bought cigarettes from a wholesaler in Virginia and kept them in a storage facility in Delaware, Schneiderman said. The brothers who ran a couple of local Subway restaurant franchises, had $1.4 million stashed in Basel Ramadan’s home, some stuffed in black plastic trash bags, along with three handguns, investigators said.

    “‘We know that some members of this group have ties to very dangerous people. We know they were arrested with weapons. We know that they made tens of millions of dollars. But so far we have found only a fraction of that.’

    “All 15 men of Palestinian origin arrested and accused of taking part in the ring remain in custody and could not be reached for comment. A sixteenth man from Guttenberg, New Jersey – Ribhi Awadeh, 39 – remains at large after flying to Jordan several weeks ago, Schneiderman said.”

    So would the smoking gun be found in Dubai?

    Comment by baseball91 — June 11, 2013 @ 9:04 PM | Reply

  2. “The New York Times found that Al Qaeda and its direct affiliates have taken in at least $125 million in revenue from kidnappings since 2008, of which $66 million was paid just last year. In news releases and statements, the United States Treasury Department has cited ransom amounts that, taken together, total around $165 million over the same period. These payments were made almost exclusively by European governments.” -from the N Y Times award winning piece written in 2014 by Rukmini Callimachi how European nations secretly paid millions to win the freedom of hostages held by the Islamic State that helped to established ISIS.

    Comment by baseball91 — February 17, 2015 @ 8:30 PM | Reply

  3. The Libya’s internationally-recognized government announced today that Mokhtar Belmokhtar, an Algerian regarded as once one of the top “militant” leaders in north Africa, was killed in “the U.S. counter-terrorism air” raid on the eastern city of Ajdabiya.

    Question the choice of words in these stories! To not question the choice of words in this story about Mokhtar Belmokhtar is to be enslaved by the limitations of the knowledge of the writer not in search of understanding. To ask the tougher questions is to seek a deeper understanding. Why can Belmokhtar be pigeon-holed as “an Algerian militant” as the United States government seeks and perpetrates alliances with the Saudi Royal Family?

    There have been past reports that The Malboro man had been killed, which had never been independently confirmed. Called “the Uncatchable” by the French, the international press had a hard time understanding the relationships of groups only allied with the beliefs of al-Qaeda. Perhaps unable to hold onto any sense of history beyond four years, most news stories have misidentified Mokhtar as “al-Qaeda’s top man in north Africa.” The chapters in his life leading up to the end include fighting in Afghanistan against the Russians before then moving onto the Islamic Fighting Group in Algeria’s civil war in the 1990s. (That was when The United States was funding al-Qaeda in their fight against the Russians.) By the start of the New Millennium, at the end of the Cold War, Mokhtar became viewed as a “gangster jihadi”, smuggling cigarettes (thus, the “Marboro Man”) and kidnapping for ransom. Consequently, his band of thugs gathered currency valued in the millions of dollars mostly from European governments in return of their kidnapped nationals. In Mali in 2012, he teamed up with jihadis who took control of Timbuktu and Gao, destroying ancient mud shrines. This was all a part of the Civil War in Libya which saw Ansar al-Sharia fighting for the cause of Sharia Law. Often described as being synonymous with Wahhabism, his Salafi movement within Sunni Islam references a doctrine known as Salafism. The term “salaf” is used to identify the earliest Muslims, with the word meaning “predecessors” or “ancestors.” The ideology believes the ancestors were most pure. (The center of Wahhabism is not far from the Saudi capital city.) In January 2013, he had just split from the Islamic Mahgreb (AQIM) to found the group, Those Who Sign In blood. It was this organization that killed 39 people in southern Algeria at an attack on the Amenas gas plant.

    A Pentagon statement from Colonel Steve Warren indicated Mokhtar Belmokhtar is dead. An Islamist with “ties to Libyan militants told Associated Press that the bombings missed Belmokhtar and instead killed four members of a Libyan extremist group that the US has linked to the 2012 attack on the US consulate in Benghazi,” according to The Guardian. So had Mokhtar ever really changed …or was it just American foreign policy? And it is the journalist choice of adjectives, based upon what side was censoring your copy, that used these buzz words — extremist or militant — which add no clarity other than getting young men to sign up for the next war.

    Old soldiers in this part of the world, never die. They just carry on with their Post Traumatic Stress, killing and maiming their neighbor. In the name of God. And so in the world of comparative religion, note the difference between those who worship their God based upon laws rather than those sects who worship, so, men (in the way of ancestors) or the spirit of the dead.

    In an Irish folk song sung by Delores Keane, there are the lyrics of “Solid Ground:”

    It’s the Land that’s our wisdom.
    It’s the Land that shines us through
    It’s the Land that feeds our children
    It’s the Land, You cannot own the Land, the Land owns you.

    Comment by baseball91 — June 15, 2015 @ 8:55 PM | Reply

  4. Update on Robert Levinson who was not included in the recent exchange of the incarcerated between the US and Iran.

    http://www.businessinsider.com/heres-what-we-know-about-what-might-have-happened-to-robert-levinson-2016-1

    Comment by baseball91 — January 24, 2016 @ 7:34 PM | Reply


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