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BLACKWATER USA | DAILY BRIEF


U.S.

  • SecDef Esper is on thin ice after vocally opposing Pres. Trump’s threat to invoke Insurrection Act powers to use military force in response to protests across the U.S. This may be his Mattis moment.

  • A DHS assessment found that white supremacist groups have been trying to stoke tensions between police and protesters, but saw no evidence that the white supremacists were directly inciting violence at protests.

China

  • The NYT assesses that “despite retaliatory moves [e.g. by the UK over Hong Kong] Beijing sees its position as strong while the rest of the world is divided and still recovering from the coronavirus pandemic.” That’s perhaps why China is cracking down on domestic mentions of Tiananmen especially hard this year—it doesn’t expect any negative repercussions.

  • The U.S. said it would ban all Chinese passenger flights starting June 16th, as retaliation against China for refusing to let American carriers resume flights. China backtracked on its side of the escalation, so the U.S. might now do the same.

Iran

  • Reuters unveiled internal Huawei documents that sought to cover up a relationship with a firm that tried to skirt U.S. sanctions and sell computer gear to Iran in 2013. Article pasted below. I wonder if this could lead to heightened U.S. (or perhaps even EU) measures against Huawei.

Cuba

  • The U.S. added a new company to its list of Cuban entities that Americans are barred from doing business with: this time it’s Fincimex, the financial corporation that handles remittances from the U.S. to Cuba. There was already a cap on such remittances, but this appears to prohibit them altogether.

Venezuela

  • The EU issued a statement reiterating its recognition of Juan Guaido as the president of Venezuela’s National Assembly, and refusing to recognize the election of Pres. Maduro’s puppet president, Luis Parra.

Libya

  • The GNA claims it has now regained full control of Tripoli, and two of Khalifa Haftar’s main supporters—the UAE and Egypt—released a joint statement calling for both sides to “fully commit” to ceasefire talks. It was Haftar who refused to talk before (when he was in a stronger position); now that Turkey’s support for the GNA has turned the tide against him, he’s being forced to the negotiating table.

Afghanistan

  • A new UN report estimates that thousands of Pakistanis are supporting the Taliban’s war in Afghanistan, despite Pakistan’s claim to be tough on terrorism. A Long War Journal article pasted below has more.

Exclusive: Huawei hid business operation in Iran after Reuters reported links to CFO (Reuters)

China’s Huawei Technologies acted to cover up its relationship with a firm that had tried to sell prohibited U.S. computer gear to Iran, after Reuters in 2013 reported deep links between the firm and the telecom-equipment giant’s chief financial officer, newly obtained internal Huawei documents show.

Huawei has long described the firm - Skycom Tech Co Ltd - as a separate local business partner in Iran. Now, documents obtained by Reuters show how the Chinese tech titan effectively controlled Skycom. The documents, reported here for the first time, are part of a trove of internal Huawei and Skycom Iran-related business records - including memos, letters and contractual agreements - that Reuters has reviewed.

One document described how Huawei scrambled in early 2013 to try to “separate” itself from Skycom out of concern over trade sanctions on Tehran. To that end, this and other documents show, Huawei took a series of actions - including changing the managers of Skycom, shutting down Skycom’s Tehran office and forming another business in Iran to take over tens of millions of dollars worth of Skycom contracts.

The revelations in the new documents could buttress a high-profile criminal case being pursued by U.S. authorities against Huawei and its chief financial officer, Meng Wanzhou, who is also the daughter of Huawei’s founder. The United States has been trying to get Meng extradited from Canada, where she was arrested in December 2018. A Canadian judge last week allowed the case to continue, rejecting defense arguments that the U.S. charges against Meng do not constitute crimes in Canada.

A U.S. indictment alleges that Huawei and Meng participated in a fraudulent scheme to obtain prohibited U.S. goods and technology for Huawei’s Iran-based business via Skycom, and move money out of Iran by deceiving a major bank. The indictment alleges that Skycom was an “unofficial subsidiary” of Huawei, not a local partner.

Huawei and Meng have denied the criminal charges, which include bank fraud, wire fraud and other allegations. Skycom, which was registered in Hong Kong and was dissolved in 2017, is also a defendant. At one point, Huawei was a shareholder in Skycom but, according to corporate filings, sold its stake more than a decade ago.

The newly obtained documents appear to undermine Huawei’s claims that Skycom was just a business partner. They offer a behind-the-scenes look at some of what transpired at the two companies inside Iran seven years ago and how intertwined the companies were. The documents are variously written in English, Chinese and Farsi.

Huawei declined to comment for this story.

China’s foreign ministry said the United States was politicizing economic and trade issues, which is not in the interest of Chinese or American firms. “We urge the United States to immediately stop its unreasonable suppression of Chinese firms including Huawei,” it said. It referred specific questions about this story to Huawei.

‘NORMAL BUSINESS PARTNERSHIP’

Reuters reported in March that Huawei had produced internal company records in 2010, including two packing lists, that showed it was directly involved in sending prohibited U.S. computer equipment to Iran. Huawei declined to comment on that story, citing ongoing legal proceedings.

The newly obtained documents show that Huawei’s efforts to obscure its relationship with Skycom began after Reuters reported in December 2012 that Skycom had offered to sell at least 1.3 million euros worth of embargoed Hewlett-Packard computer equipment to Iran’s largest mobile-phone operator in late 2010. In January 2013, a second Reuters report described how Huawei had close financial ties and other links to Skycom, including the fact that Meng had served on Skycom’s board of directors between February 2008 and April 2009.

In its response at the time to the Reuters reporting, Huawei said Skycom was one of its “major local partners” and that the relationship between Huawei and Skycom was “a normal business partnership.”

But a newly obtained Huawei internal document from the Chinese company’s Iran office, dated March 28, 2013, indicates Huawei controlled Skycom. The document in Chinese stated: “In consideration of trade compliances, A2 representative office is trying to separate Skycom and Huawei.” A2 was Huawei’s code for Iran, according to the U.S. indictment.

The document also noted that Huawei had installed one of its own employees to manage Skycom in Iran “to urgently avoid the risks of media hype.” Huawei had made an “urgent decision” to appoint Hu Mei as Skycom’s general manager in Iran, effective March 10, 2013, the document noted. Hu was a director of Skycom and was also listed as a Huawei employee in an internal Huawei directory.

The document detailed how Huawei quickly recognized a flaw in putting Hu in charge of Skycom. Hu was based at Huawei’s headquarters in China, and the job required dealing with business matters on the ground in Iran, the document stated. So, Huawei decided to appoint instead “a Chinese employee based in Iran” to manage Skycom’s Tehran office, the document shows.

Huawei decided to name Song Kai, deputy representative of its Iran office, to run Skycom in Iran. He was informed of the decision in an internal Huawei message that was reviewed by Reuters. “Please update your resume,” Song was instructed.

The message said that the change had been approved by a man named Lan Yun, who was identified as the “chief representative” of Huawei’s Iran office.

Hu, Song and Lan couldn’t be reached for comment.

In response to the Reuters articles of 2012 and 2013, several Western banks questioned Huawei about its relationship with Skycom. They included HSBC Holdings PLC, where both Huawei and Skycom held bank accounts.

HSBC declined to comment for this story.

In August 2013, Meng met with HSBC’s deputy head of global banking for the Asia-Pacific region. She is accused in the U.S. indictment of making “numerous misrepresentations regarding Huawei’s ownership and control of Skycom.”

Meng gave a PowerPoint presentation during the meeting that said Skycom was merely “a business partner of Huawei.”

The newly obtained documents show that Huawei soon became directly involved in shutting Skycom down.

In a letter dated Nov. 2, 2013, Song, the Huawei employee appointed to manage Skycom, told a major Iranian client that Skycom “has decided to annul and terminate its business activities and dissolve the branch company in Iran.” Song’s letter was addressed to a vice president of Iran’s largest mobile-phone operator, Mobile Communication Co of Iran, or MCCI.

MCCI couldn’t be reached for comment.

The next day, Skycom, MCCI and a new Huawei company - Huawei Technologies Service (Iranian) Co Ltd - signed an agreement. It stated that Skycom planned to transfer its contracts to the new Huawei entity. The agreement listed eight contracts worth a total of 44.6 million euros (about $50 million), with about 34.6 million euros remaining on them. Any money owed to Skycom was to be paid to the Huawei entity upon completion of the contracts.

“All the parties promise that this three-way contract remains confidential,” it stated.

U.N.: Thousands of Pakistanis fight in Afghanistan alongside the Taliban (Long War Journal)

The black-and-white banner of the Jamaat-ud-Dawa, the front group for the Lashkar-e-Taiba, is prevalent at an anti-US rally in Lahore in December 2011. AP photo.

Thousands of Pakistanis, including fighters from Pakistani proxies, continue to support the Taliban’s jihad against the Afghan government, according to a new report by a United Nations monitoring team. The report highlighted Pakistan’s double game of claiming to fight terrorism while backing terror groups that further its foreign policy goals.

“One Member State reported that the total number of Pakistani nationals fighting with terrorist groups in Afghanistan may be as high as 6,000 to 6,500,” said the 11th report from the U.N.’s Analytical Support and Sanctions Monitoring Team.

The report singled out three major Pakistan-based groups for participation: the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan (Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan or TTP), Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) and Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM). All three groups operate inside Afghanistan with the permission and support of the Taliban.

“The presence of these groups is centered in the eastern provinces of Kunar, Nangarhar and Nuristan, where they operate under the umbrella of the Afghan Taliban,” the report stated.

The U.N. report devastated claims made by Zalmay Khalilzad, who has lauded Pakistan for its support of the so-called Afghan ‘peace process.’ On April 30, 2019, Khalilzad – the U.S. Special Representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation – said that Pakistan “supports efforts to accelerate intra-Afghan dialogue and negotiations, and is committed to helping reduce violence” in Afghanistan.

FDD’s Long War Journal cannot independently corroborate the report as the information is based on on intelligence provided by members states. However, a number of Pakistani groups are known to operate inside Afghanistan and fight alongside the Taliban, and top leaders of Pakistani terror groups have been killed inside Afghanistan. Additionally, a number of Pakistanis are known to fight in the ranks of the Islamic State’s Khorasan Province (ISKP).

The TTP is an enemy of the Pakistani state, and has waged a brutal insurgency in northwestern Pakistan and conducted terror attacks throughout the country since it was founded in late 2006. Yet Pakistan supports the Afghan Taliban, which shelters and supports the TTP. [For more on Pakistan’s use of strategic depth and its support of so-called “good Taliban” groups, see FDD’s Long War Journal report, Pakistan: Friend or Foe in the Fight Against Terrorism?.]

The TPP “is thought to have approximately 500 fighters in Kunar and about 180 in Nangarhar,” according to the report.

While not noted in the U.N. report, Lashkar-e-Taiba and Jaish-e-Mohammed are proxies of the Pakistani state. These two groups are two of the largest Pakistan-backed terror proxies in the region. In addition to executing attacks in Afghanistan, both also conduct terror operations inside of India.

LeT and JeM “facilitate the trafficking of terrorist fighters into Afghanistan, who act as advisers, trainers and specialists in improvised explosive devices, according to the report. “Both groups are responsible for carrying out targeted assassinations against [Afghan] government officials and others.”

LeT has approximately 800 fighters in Afghanistan, while JeM has an estimated 200 in country.

The U.N. report provided some additional details on the locations of LeT, JeM, and TTP fighters inside Afghanistan.

LeT and JeM fighters are “co-located with Taliban forces in Mohmand Darah, Dur Baba and Sherzad Districts of Nangarhar Province. [TTP] also maintains a presence in Lal Pura District, near the border area of Mohmand Darah, Pakistan. In Kunar Province, [LeT] retains a further 220 fighters and has a further 30, all of whom are dispersed within Taliban forces.”

While not explicitly mentioned in the U.N.’s latest report, other Pakistani terrorist proxies are known to operate in Afghanistan. In Aug. 2014, the U.S. State Department noted that Harakat-ul-Mujahideen was running several training camps inside Afghanistan. U.S. military and intelligence officials have told FDD’s Long War Journal that these HuM camps remain active to this day. [See Harakat-ul-Mujahideen ‘operates terrorist training camps in eastern Afghanistan’.]

HuM is one of many terrorist groups backed by the Pakistani state. In Sept. 2014, the U.S. added Fazle-ur-Rahman Khalil, the longtime emir of HuM and a key ally of al Qaeda, to its list of Specially Designated Global Terrorists. Yet the Pakistani state has done nothing to arrest or even restrain Khalil. In fact, in 2018, Khalil joined Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan’s political party.

Meanwhile. Pakistan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs maintains that no terror groups operate on Pakistani soil.

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