Signs of Confusion in the Middle East

Yesterday, Shane Harris told the tale of a spooked up telecom providing Iran’s state-owned telecom company with Internet bandwidth.

GTT Communications Inc.—headquartered in McLean, Virginia, just a 15-minute drive from the headquarters of the CIA and hired by various unnamed U.S. intelligence agencies and satellite operators—hasn’t exactly been touting its new venture.

The company has issued no press release about its deal with an undersea cable network that sells Internet services to Iran and other Persian Gulf. (One of the cables comes ashore at the city of Bushehr, home to a nuclear plant that’s been the subject of intense debate about its role in Iran’s nuclear program.)


The company began providing bandwidth to Iran’s state-owned telecom company, TIC, via one of Gulf Bridge’s submarines cables on June 10, Doug Madory, the director of analysis at Dyn, a research company that monitors Internet connectivity, told The Daily Beast. Notably, that was nearly a month before the U.S., Iran, and other world powers announced an agreement to curb Iran’s nuclear weapons program in exchange for lifting some sanctions.

Today, WSJ has a muddled story about the Fed cutting off shipments of cash to Iraq because of concerns about who was getting the dollars.

In 2014, annual U.S. dollar cash flow from the Federal Reserve Bank of New York to Iraq was $13.66 billion, more than triple the $3.85 billion in 2012, according to data compiled by Iraq’s parliament and reviewed by The Wall Street Journal.

That spike doesn’t mesh with the sluggish Iraqi economy of late, and as a result U.S. officials suspected the dollars were being hoarded rather than circulated.


U.S. officials sent a written demand around July to Iraqi officials that the Iranian banks be cut off and separately conveyed to Iraqi officials that the Fed wouldn’t approve cash requests until the overall situation improved.


In July, several U.S. officials, including Daniel Glaser, assistant secretary for terrorist financing in the Treasury’s Office of Terrorism and Financial Intelligence, flew to Baghdad to discuss potential solutions. At a meeting in the U.S. Embassy dining room, Iraqi officials including Iraqi central bank governor Ali Allaq agreed to turn over reams of data to the Fed, which also shares it with U.S. intelligence agencies. They later hired U.S. accounting firm Ernst & Young to monitor the auctions.

On Aug. 6, just days before Iraq’s central bank said it would run out of dollars, the Fed and the New York Fed sent nearly $500 million. It has sent several more in the weeks since then.

I say the story is muddled because it offers various accounts of who was getting the dollars laundered through Iraq’s central bank: corrupt officials, the Kurds, Iran, or ISIS. (ZeroHedge suggests the money was going to intentionally fund ISIS, but a lot about that claim, especially the timing of the cut-off, doesn’t make sense.)

What one comment in the story makes clear, however, is that Treasury let this money-laundering go for a time, until recent events led them to crack down.

Some Iraqi officials had similar concerns at the time, and also said corruption and graft have been a problem for years and question why U.S. officials only recently considered the currency issue an urgent one to be addressed.

This is roughly $20 billion laundered through Iraq — much of it going to the Kurdish region —  that the US only acted to halt amid concerns that one of our many adversaries was tapping into the dollars.

These two data points suggest our ostensible alliances in the Middle East aren’t in fact who we’re working with (with the exception of the Kurds, who remarkably stick with us even after we sell them out serially).


8 replies
  1. Les says:

    I recall a story from last week about $500 billion or so in oil revenues missing under Nouri Al-Malaki.

    Here’s one from earlier this year.

    “There are a great number of them (ghost employees) in the Iraqi army and the ministry of interior. They also exist in the ministry of Peshmerga,” he said. “The ministry of defense has started carrying out some procedures to eliminate this kind of corruption. It has been decided to make everyone receive his own salary in person instead of lists,” he added.

  2. bloopie2 says:

    Love your headline – “Signs of Confusion in the Middle East’. This is the evergreen headline, right?
    But seriously, it seems that now that we don’t have “boots on the ground” in Iraq, we are trying to control them financially instead? Mom and Pop with an allowance, You better spend it well or I’ll cut you off. Don’t we ever quit? I guess not.

    • P J Evans says:

      After reading about the CNG fueling station we paid $BIG_BUCKS for in Afghanistan, I don’t think we have any business complaining about other countries mis-spending money.

  3. Evangelista says:

    “…the Kurds…stick with us…” — I don’t think the Kurds are “with us”, they just accept whatever help they can obtain, from wherever they can obtain it. They can do this with US because everyone in the region knows who they fight for, and that they include all reasonable, rational and therefore actually Islamic (meaning non-puritanic and also Islamic-friendly/compatibles, such as local non-Western Christians, Yazidi, etc.) local groups. Kurdish credibility goes way back in the middle-east, to the first Western Crusades, when Kurds were an essential element in the Moslem battles to stop and then evict the Crusader scourge(s). Saladin (his Western name), who turned the tide against the Crusaders, was Kurd, was, initially, fighting for Calif Al Adid, not himself (Al Adid was Shi’ite, Saladin was Sunni, and led all sub-divisions of Islam, and when Al Adid died, reorganized the caliphate, non of which was problematic, because Islam, as Mohammed organized it was/is a mulit-culture and tolerant religion, organized to form an umbrella over all within and unde its protection-control, and there were not Western powers then separating everything and everybody Islamic into artificial football-team like divisions and propagandizing rivalries into existence.

    The fact that Mohammedan Islam is, properly, an umbrella religion, under which even non-Muslims, Christians and Jews and so on, are not persecuted (so long as they respect Islam and don’t war against it) is playing, and will play in the current middle-east situation where, and so long as, Russia is an ally, not a conqueror (as Western propaganda is trying to paint in, seeking to replace US as ‘overlord’ of the world and the region), is providing aid to tolerant and inclusive Islam, and is attempting to restore international order and international rule-of-international-law, which US and West, having gone gangster, have subverted.

    Nobody in the middle-east, except US and Western powers attempting to “defend” the “Jewish Conquest of Jerusalem” (Israel) is fighting for the US and West. All are fighting against those “invader” “New Crusaders”, in their different alliances and different ways, or are attempting to keep the invader-new-Crusader lot in check, for not seeing it feasible, or not politic, to fight yet. All recognize, from long experience, that timing is of prime importance in repellng the present, as they see it, Crusader invasion, as it was in the last.

    • bevin says:

      Very good. It is becoming increasingly rare to see people writing sensible things about religions. This, I suspect has something to do with the cheap and easy use of atheism as a bolt hole for those afraid to confront the cults of market economics and neo-darwinistic kowtowing before brutality.

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