Wednesday, August 22, 2007

The Legal Project

from the Middle East Forum

The Middle East Forum has established a Legal Project to protect researchers and analysts who work on the topics of terrorism, terrorist funding, and radical Islam. Researchers and analysts have been repeatedly targeted in legal actions ... such lawsuits are often predatory, filed without a serious expectation of winning, but undertaken as a means to bankrupt, distract, intimidate, and demoralize defendants. Plaintiffs seek less to prevail in the courtroom than to wear down researchers and analysts. Even when the latter win cases, they pay heavily in time, money, and spirit. As counterterrorism specialist Steven Emerson comments, "Legal action has become a mainstay of radical Islamist organizations seeking to intimidate and silence their critics." Islamists clearly hope, Douglas Farah notes, that researchers will "get tired of the cost and the hassle [of lawsuits] and simply shut up." We therefore must expect that Islamists will engage in future legal efforts along these lines. Indeed, the Islamic Society of North America and the Muslim Public Affairs Council have publicly stated that they are considering filing defamation lawsuits against critics.

Hamas Uses Local Merchants for ‘Money Laundering'

by Bassem Roomie from The Media Line

In the past, Hamas received funds through a banking system that channeled money into private accounts at local banks, which also maintained branches in the United Kingdom, Jordan and Saudi Arabia. The use of local merchants began after the closure of the Rafah terminal, which left Hamas isolated and besieged in its coastal enclave ... Raising money through its charitable wing, Hamas, which runs a huge social-welfare network in the territories, receives an annual budget of $50 million, the sources estimated. Before the Gaza takeover, many Palestinians saw Hamas as a charitable organization that built schools and hospitals and stepped in where the corrupt P.A. had failed. Hamas receives financial assistance through its political offices, which are active in a number of Arab and Middle East countries, including Iran, Lebanon and Saudi Arabia. Using bank transfers, moneychangers, private money services and unofficial networks for the transfer of funds, has made it difficult for the P.A. and Arab states to trace and halt Hamas’ financial channels.

Islam's unholy alliance

by Cameron Stewart and Richard Kerbaj from The Australian

Senior Sunni female spiritual leader Aziza Abdel-Halim agrees, saying there is no reason overseas conflicts between the two sects should play out in Australia. But she says hardliners in both the Sunni and Shia sects in Australia try to undermine relations between their respective mainstream communities. So far they have been largely unsuccessful. Abdel-Halim, a former member of John Howard's Muslim Community Reference Group, says Sunnis who espouse the fundamentalist Wahhabi ideology - practised by the likes of Osama bin Laden - do not consider Shi'ites to be Muslims and thus treats them as non-believers. "In groups where people are influenced by Wahhabi thinking, you may hear condemnation of Shia," she says. "Because they are very narrow in their (religious) interpretation of everything."

Kingdom Urges Arabs to Close Ranks

from Arab News

Minister of Culture and Information Iyad Madani told the Saudi Press Agency that the Kingdom was making all possible efforts to serve the two Holy Mosques and making necessary arrangements to guarantee the comfort and safety. These efforts include the expansion of the pilgrims. These efforts include the expansion of the Mas’a (the pathway between Safa and Marwa) and the completion of the upper floors of the Jamrat, in addition to the general development of Makkah, Madinah and other holy sites ... The Cabinet decided to set up an independent government organization, The Saudi Exports Promotion Authority, to organize international fairs and undertake the management of the country’s nonoil exports. Other functions of the new body include increased involvement of Saudis in export-oriented activities and the promotion of a culture of exports in the Kingdom in collaboration with local and international training organizations, the minister said.

Gas station owners allege price fixing by Shell, Chevron

from The Associated Press

Nearly two dozen gas station owners in California sued Shell Oil Co., Chevron Corp. and Saudi Refining today, claiming the companies conspired to fix prices for 23,000 franchise owners nationwide. Similar to another lawsuit filed in 2004, the plaintiffs now say the venture violates a "rule of reason" governing antitrust matters. ... The lawsuit hinges on a marketing deal that, plaintiffs say, allowed former rivals to collude on prices starting in 1998, when Shell and Texaco Inc. formed Equilon Enterprises LLC to market gasoline in western states. They formed Motiva Enterprises LLC later that year for the eastern half of the country. Houston-based Saudi Refining also joined Motiva. Calls to Houston-based Shell, a subsidiary of the Royal Dutch/Shell Group, and Saudi Refining, affiliated with the state-owned oil company of Saudi Arabia, were not immediately returned.

Aramco invites Ras Tanura bids

from The Gulf Daily News

Aramco aims for the plant to start up in early 2012 to supply rapidly growing domestic demand. Saudi Arabia's oil consumption rose 6.2 per cent last year to just over 2m barrels per day as record oil revenues fed economic expansion. KBR, a former unit of Halliburton, already has another project management contract at Ras Tanura for the nearby $20 billion-plus Ras Tanura petrochemical plant to be built by Aramco and US Dow Chemicals. That plant will be one of the largest of its kind in the world. Saudi Arabia has also signed deals worth $12bn for two new joint venture refineries, one with France's Total at Jubail and the other with US ConocoPhillips in Yanbu. Each plant will have 400,000 bpd capacity.

Mideast countries boost up nuclear development projects

by Yoav Stern from Haaretz

Several Arab countries in recent months have boosted their nuclear programs, in what experts believe is a response to Iran's aggressive drive to acquire nuclear weapons. All the countries concerned, including Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, the United Arab Emirates and Lybia, claim that they aim to develop nuclear technology for peaceful purposes ... In a recent article in the International Herald Tribune, Joseph Cirincione, director for nuclear policy at the Center for American Progress, offered an alternative explanation. Cirincione and his Israeli associate, Uri Leventer, a graduate student at Harvard University, argued that the nuclear surge in the Middle East is due to the interests of global powers, competing to sell their nuclear technology. In their article, Cirincione and Leventer noted French President Nicolas Sarkozy's recent signing of a nuclear cooperation deal with Libya. Sarkozy later agreed to help the United Arab Emirates launch its own civilian nuclear program. Indicating that this could be just the beginning of a major sale and supply effort, Sarkozy declared that the West should trust Arab states with nuclear technology. The former military adviser to Congress went on to warn that "if the existing territorial, ethnic, and political disputes continue unresolved, this is a recipe for nuclear war."