Sunday, July 03, 2005

Iraq's New Economy

Read this now. The London Review of Books on epic corruption in Iraq, including the apparent disappearance of Iraqi Airways:
"‘A complainant alleged that Iraqi Airlines was sold at a reduced price to an influential family with ties to the former regime. The investigation revealed that Iraqi Airlines was essentially dissolved, and there was no record of the transaction.’ Most of the 69 criminal investigations the CPA-IG instigated related to alleged ‘theft, fraud, waste, assault and extortion’. It also investigated ‘a number of other cases that, because of their sensitivity, cannot be included in this report’. At around this time, 19 billion new Iraqi dinars, worth about £6.5 million, were found on a plane in Lebanon which had been sent there by the American-appointed Iraqi interior minister."
The "influential family" is that of Sheikh Hussain al-Khawam, owner of Teebah Airlines, which provides all the new Iraqi Airways' aircraft, which are mysteriously registered in Sierra Leone (as previously blogged, but no bugger seems to care).

Now check this out: Iraqi Airways-titled B727 9L-LEL on the ground at Baghdad. This aircraft, serial number 21483, was formerly used by KAM Air, the Afghan airline associated with heroin-smuggling, prisoner-smothering warlord Abdul Rashid Dostum, old friend Viktor Bout, and convicted cocaine smuggler Chris Barrett-Jolley. Teebah provided several other aircraft for KAM, some of which also passed by Phoenix Aviation. Phoenix is a Kyrgyz-registry, Sharjah-based company whose name has been used by various Viktor Bout-related companies in Belgium, Greece, Bulgaria and the UK since 1994. Its alumni include (you guessed it) CBJ. Its current aircraft roster includes planes apparently shared with Santa Cruz Imperial of the UAE, another gun-running outfit connected with Bout and a senior UAE government minister. And here is one of its aircraft, Boeing 737 EX-450, serial no. 20450, on the ground in Baghdad. This link shows three Phoenix flights a day between Baghdad and Dubai, all using B737-200s. That's as well as British Gulf International An-12s and even a daily flight by Irbis Air Co. of Kazakhstan and, of course, Sharjah. Irbis, I repeat, is a company that the US Department of the Treasury has placed on an asset-freeze blacklist. The flight is listed as using a Yakovlev 42 aircraft. There is only one Yak42 at Irbis, registered UN-42428, serial no.4520422306016, so it is this one. It's officially leased to Sudan Airways, but as this photo demonstrates, it's still carrying the Kazakh registration that traces to Irbis. And the flights take place using Irbis's ICAO code: BIS. Moving swiftly on, the Sharjah Airport arrivals for today show an Irbis flight, BIS6372, from Balad South East airfield. Balad is a US Air Force facility: so why was it permitted to take-off again having landed there? Interestingly, the same flight number is also scheduled into Dubai from Baghdad at 1830 local time today. During the last week, Irbis flights have also taken place between Sharjah and Bagram AFB in Afghanistan, as well as between SHJ and Kabul.

And there are also flights between Iraq and Ras al-Khaimah, operated by Jupiter Airlines: which doesn't officially exist. But it is on this list of companies dissolved by the Congolese government. You can probably guess what sort of thing you'd have to do to get dissolved in the DR Congo. But aircraft with a history in West Africa are now turning up in the ranks of KAM, Teebah, FAG, Phoenix and such operating in Iraq and Afghanistan. I know I'm a mystery jet bore, but this is serious. These people are parasites. They infect societies like maggots, helping to create a criminal war economy, John Robb's Bazaar of Violence. Within the last ten days, we've heard that the Iraqi rebels have targeted the government's audit capability (see the LRB story and also this excellent post from Jamie Kenny), that the rebels are exporting looted antiquities, that another key export of the New Iraq is fifteen-year-old prostitutes, not to mention acting as an entrepot for heroin. As well as the deadly cocktail of military expertise and suicidal fanaticism, there is also a potent war economy emerging in Iraq to fund it. (By the way, one source on the Iraq/smack story is quoted as saying that "you can't have peace, security and development without drugs control". Bollocks. You can't have drugs control without peace, security etc; if you can't stop people blowing policemen up, it's pretty clear you can't stop them selling drugs.)


ziz said...

A UK born, now French based ex FFL working for Kroll helping USAID tells me that prostitutes from Uzbek /Azebaijan / Roumania regularly are re-cycled through Bagram / Green Zone Baghdad. Apparently US staff have no great liking for teenage Arab girls.

Tells of Russian organisers using Russian aircraft with gun turrets(?) at Baghdad airport being used. Booked in as "catering staff".

Alex said...

Very bad news if true, Postie. I wouldn't worry over much about the "gun turrets" - almost all large Soviet aircraft were fitted for a possible mobilisation use, with glazed-in noses and often a tail gunner's position without the guns. The military ones, of course, actually had the 23mm cannon installed - for the civilian ones, it was planned to fit the guns on mobilisation.

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