|Southwest Asia News Digest
Assassination Attempt on Turkish Prime Minister
May 5 (EIRNS)In what is being seen as an assassination attempt, the convoy of the Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan was attacked on May 4 in Kastamonu on the Black Sea, shortly after Erdogan left the city by helicopter. The attackers, armed with machine guns and grenades, were believed to be members of the separatist Kurdish Workers Party (PKK); at least one police officer was killed and another injured. It is not known if any of Erdogan's close aides, who were in the convoy, were hurt.
The attack occurs at a time when Turkey has been playing a important and positive diplomatic role through Southwest Asia, especially concerning Iran, Syria, and the Palestinians. It also happened at the beginning of a national election campaign in which Erdogan's Justice and Development Party is expected to win for a third time.
Speaking at an election rally, Erdogan said: "I begin my speech by expressing my sorrow about an attack in Kastamonu. These terrorists, who understood that they cannot get any result in the elections, think that they will be successful in this way. We will not permit these groups to divide this country. My people will never give credit to terrorists, to those who want to destabilize our country."
Also on May 4, six police officers were injured in an attack on a Diyarbakir funeral for four members of the PKK. Demonstrators at the funeral attacked the Diyarbakir prison.
In a statement which is an indication of why Erdogan was targetted, Lebanese Prime Minister Najib Mikati is cited in Today's Zaman as saying he believes Turkey plays a vital role in political processes in the region, at a time when mass demonstrations are sweeping across the Middle East, and challenging decades-old rule of authoritarian Arab leaders. "Turkey's role in solving Middle East issues is indispensable," Mikati told Azerbaijan's Trend news agency, adding that Turkey has the opportunity to resolve all the conflicts in the Middle East. Mikati also reportedly said that, unlike other countries that act as mediators in resolving problems in the Middle East, Ankara does not pursue any goals based on its own interests.
Trail of Egyptian Corruption Leads to Heart of British Empire
May 2 (EIRNS)The new Egyptian government's fight against the corruption of the former Mubarak government has brought it up against the center of the British Empire, HSBC, formerly known as the notorious Hong Kong and Shanghai Banking Corporation, which stood and still stands at the center of the Empire's narcotics operations. Lord Green of Hurstpierpoint, its former chairman, is currently British Minister of State for Trade and Investment, who only last Feb. 21 made an official trip to Cairo.
The London Sunday Observer, detailed the role of HSBC based on research by the Bureau of Investigative Journalism, based at London's City University. Their research revealed that HSBC was the most active European investment bank in Egypt, and raised more than £450 million pounds for two of the country's largest and most controversial real estate developers, whose top executives now face corruption trials. Among these are included former investment minister Mahmound Mohieldin and ex-trade minister Rashid Mohamed Rachid who, prior to becoming ministers in Mubarak's government in 2004, were on the Egyptian board of HSBC. They oversaw land sales and privatizations. Rashid was also head of the Middle East arm of the Anglo-Dutch Unilever. Mohieldin is now a managing director of the World Bank.
Among the companies HSBC served as underwriters for was Palm Hills Development, Egypt's second-biggest listed developer, now under investigation for corruption. Former housing minister Ahmed El-Maghrabi and his cousin, ex-transport minister Mohamed Mansour, are shareholders in Palm Hills' parent company while Mansour's brother is Palm Hills' chairman. Maghrabi is now in custody awaiting trial. Last week, an Egyptian court declared a land deal made in 2006 by Palm Hills illegal, while Maghrabi was a minister, and he is accused of undervaluing and transferring the land via a foreign firm.
Another company HSBC helped raise funds for was the Talaat Moustafa Group (TMG), run by a former member of the Egyptian parliament's upper house, whose Medinaty development in Cairo is under the shadow of corruption allegations. In 2007, HSBC helped TMG to raise some £400 million They also help raise £52 million for the Egyptian Arab Land bank in the same year.
Engi M El Haddad, director of the Egyptian anti-corruption group Afro-Egyptian Human Rights Organization said, "As HSBC are bankers of record for many of the Egyptian figures who were politically exposed and many of the dealings were extremely suspicious, this is definitely a concern."
Green Party chairwoman and Member of Parliament Caroline Lucas described these links as "shocking," saying, "In light of this investigation, David Cameron would do well to reconsider his [Lord Green's-ed.] suitability as government trade and investment minister."
At the center of all this is Lord Green who spent almost his entire career as HSBC until he was named minister in the Conservative government lead by David Cameron. In 1998, he was co-chairman of the Egyptian British Business Council, where he reported directly to then Prime Minister Tony Blair.
Remnants of Security Service Behind Attack on Coptic Churches?
May 8 (EIRNS)Egyptian sources have reported that Salafi hooligans, encouraged by remnants of the State Security Ministry, were behind the recent attacks against two Coptic Christian churches in Cairo. The attacks led to violence between radical Islamists and Copts, and forced Prime Minister Essam Sharaf to cancel a scheduled trip to the Persian Gulf, to convene an emergency cabinet meeting.
The Egyptian sources emphasized that the neo-Salafi are being heavily funded from Saudi Arabia, but that elements from the discredited Ministry of State Security encouraged the attacks on the Copts, to pressure the Supreme Military Council to give them greater authority to restore "law and order."
Such classic gang-countergang methods are the hallmark of British counterinsurgency operations. The Imam of Al Azhar University, the oldest Islamic institution of higher learning in the world, denounced "troublemakers" from the old regime for inciting the violence, and called for an ecumenical dialogue between Muslims and Christians to avert any further provocations.
Ex-Mossad Chief: Attack on Iran Is 'Stupidest Thing I Have Ever Heard'
May 8 (EIRNS)Former Mossad head Meir Dagan called the idea of an Israeli attack on Iran's nuclear facilities "the stupidest thing I have ever heard," warning that it would trigger a full-scale war between Israel and Iran, that would draw in Syria, Hamas, and Hezbollah. "It is the kind of thing where we know where it starts, but not how it will end." It was the first public statement by Dagan since he retired as Mossad head in September 2010.