Wednesday, December 13, 2006

The James Baker/Saudi "Quid Pro Quo"?

Front paged at Booman Tribune and ePluribus Media

A lot has been made about James Baker, the Iraq Study Group report as well as the Saudi threat that it may start to fund the Sunnis if the US leaves Iraq. However, a comment that Maccabee made in his diary today about the delay in the US strategy in Iraq, coupled with a comment made to me by my father recently, didn’t give me the “warm and fuzzies” about all of these events over the past few weeks.

For starters, the comment by Maccabee was as follows:

The Saudi Ambassador left DC in a huff. Why? Because I now believe it was the Saudis who brokered this. It was the Saudis who visited with Cheney and Rice to tell them that the Saudi government wants the civil war in Iraq to be over.


I now believe that the entire Iraq Study Group was sponsored by the Saudis to limit the damage that Bush 43 causes in the long term.

Whether this is true or not, there are some other very unsettling parts to this equation – and many lead back to the “savior” himself – James Baker.

Now, you may remember that the 9/11 families filed a massive lawsuit against the Saudis, alleging their involvement in the attacks. Earlier this year, Newsweek ran an article that discussed the Saudi’s legal team and legal defense strategy. As part of this, a passing mention was made of the Housotn based law firm that was defending Prince Sultan bin Abdul Aziz, the Saudi defense minister. That firm (a huge international law firm) is named Baker Botts. And guess who is one of their senior partners – one James A. Baker III.

A few things worth mentioning about Baker Botts and their defense of the Saudi defense minister. As part of the information uncovered during the defense:

Sultan’s U.S. lawyers also presented highly detailed new evidence of the Saudi government’s role in funneling millions of dollars to a web of Islamic charities that are widely suspected by U.S. officials of covertly financing the operations of Al Qaeda and other international terrorist groups.

Now, what type of vacation to “Club Gitmo” would one get for even knowing someone who knows someone who was funneling money to Islamic charities that were suspected of financing Al Qaeda? Hell, we have heard of much worse done to US citizens and other innocent people for much less. But that is besides the point. Ultimately, Botts was able to get the case against Sultan bin Abdul Aziz dismissed – no doubt much to the relief of the Saudi royal family. Now, this is not meant to be a commentary on why the case was dismissed, or whether the 9/11 families have legal grounds or basis for their lawsuit. This IS meant to point out that the same man who was charged with heading the Iraq Study Group is a senior partner in the law firm that defended one of the Saudi officials, ultimately leading to such official getting “off the hook”.

This past Monday, Investor’s Business Daily (hardly a liberal paper) ran an Editorial/Opinion regarding Saudi Arabia called ”The Saudi Factor”. It mentions a few interesting tidbits, including the following note from the Iraq Study Group report:

Missing from the Baker report's 79 recommendations for stopping the violence in Iraq is perhaps the most obvious one: getting our "ally" Saudi Arabia to stop funding the insurgency there.

The 160-page report reveals on page 29 that the Saudis are backing the Sunni terrorists who are killing U.S. soldiers next door. But then it never returns to the subject. Poof! It's as if it were never mentioned.

Sure enough, taking a look at the Iraq Study Group report (warning, .pdf file), on page 25 is the following:
Several Iraqi Sunni Arab politicians complained that Saudi Arabia has not provided political support for their fellow Sunnis within Iraq. One observed that Saudi Arabia did not even send a letter when the Iraqi government was formed, whereas Iran has an ambassador in Iraq. Funding for the Sunni insurgency comes from private individuals within Saudi Arabia and the Gulf States, even as those governments help facilitate U.S. military operations in Iraq by providing basing and overflight rights and by cooperating on intelligence issues.

OK, so it does say “private individuals”, but again, it is telling as to how much the Saudis are helping us out – even moreso taking into account the “blackmail” of threatening “official” funding to the Sunnis. Not only that, but as the Investor’s Business Daily article reports, there may be more to this than meets the eye:
Riyadh insists it knows nothing of such payments to Iraqi insurgents. But the Associated Press reports that boxes of cash collected from Saudi mosques and charities are being trucked and bused across the border into Iraq.

In one recent case, $25 million in Saudi money went to a top Iraqi Sunni cleric and was used to buy weapons, including a shoulder-fired anti-aircraft missile. Last month the U.S. lost an F-16, possibly to such a missile. It went down over western Iraq.

The kingdom's denials ring hollow against another little-reported fact: Most of the foreign fighters captured or killed in Iraq hail from Saudi Arabia.

While this Op/Ed goes more into detail questioning why Baker and the ISG report lets Saudi Arabia off the hook, I won’t get into that here. However, I will note that when it came to the blacked out pages from the 9/11 report (article halfway down the page – the original source is not truthout), there was wide speculation that it involved the Saudis as well.

This leads me to the next strange point. As LithiumCola points out in his diary, there is lots to be had with respect to Iraqi oil, and the Bushies don’t want to let their main reason for invading Iraq in the first place go unfulfilled. Of course, I am speculating here, but we do know that Baker is a founder and senior advisor at the Carlyle Group. And we also find out last month that the Carlyle Group is establishing a MidEast “buyout team” which would make private equity investments in the Middle East and North Africa. As part of this:

A drop in Middle Eastern stock markets has lowered valuations and made companies there more attractive private equity targets, analysts and investors say. The drop has prompted oil-rich investors in the region to recruit U.S. and European private equity investors to join them in raising funds to invest there.


Carlyle's offices will be in Cairo, Dubai and Istanbul, with a focus on energy, financial services, health care, industry, infrastructure, technology and transportation., infrastructure and other industries noted above. Seems like Iraq is a great place for some of that “investment”. It has also been asserted that the Saudis have been heavy investors in Carlyle and Bush family interests. Additionally, as reported in The Nation back in 2004 Baker is even more entwined with the Saudis:
For instance, one of Iraq's largest creditors is the government of Saudi Arabia. The Carlyle Group does extensive business with the Saudi royal family, as does Baker's law firm, Baker Botts (which is currently defending them in a $1 trillion lawsuit filed by the families of September 11 victims). The New York Times determined that the potential conflicts of interest were so great that on December 12 it published an editorial calling on Baker to resign his posts at the Carlyle Group and Baker Botts to preserve the integrity of the envoy position.

"Mr. Baker is far too tangled in a matrix of lucrative private business relationships that leave him looking like a potentially interested party in any debt-restructuring formula," stated the editorial. It concluded that it wasn't enough for Baker to "forgo earnings from clients with obvious connections to Iraqi debts.... To perform honorably in his new public job, Mr. Baker must give up these two private ones."

So many conflicts of interest, it isn’t even funny. But what we have seen is that there is more evidence of the Saudis already doing some sort of funding of “insurgents” than there is for many of the prisoners who are rendered or held in Gitmo. There is a threat of the Saudis “officially” funding the Sunnis if the US decides to pull its troops. And right on cue, we have a decision by The Decider™ himself to send more troops to Iraq.

We also have Baker’s fingers all over the potential for not only oil deals for his buddies, but also permanent military bases in Iraq for his other buddies. Not to mention the business investment opportunities for Baker’s Carlyle Group in the Middle East, the high priced defense of the Saudi government officials and the lack of any real mention of the Saudi involvement in the attacks against our own troops in Iraq.

As if this all wasn’t fishy enough, it sure seems real fishy now. Why are all of these events happening now? It is too much of a coincidence to be a, well, coincidence. Who is benefiting from this? And whose name keeps popping up in the middle of all this? The answers to these questions may not be as nefarious as the questions seem. But people have been rendered, tortured and locked up with no due process for much less.


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