Canada, as well as the US, infiltrated and spied on the Brazilian Energy Ministry, a new leak by Edward Snowden has revealed. The leaked documents show how the data gleaned through espionage was shared with international spy network the ‘Five Eyes.’
Newly-released documents handed over to Guardian journalist Glenn Greenwald by former CIA employee Edward Snowden describe in detail how Canadian intelligence infiltrated Brazil’s Energy and Mines Ministry.
“I was overwhelmed by the power of the tools used. The Ministry of Energy and Mines was totally dissected,” security expert Paulo Pagliusi told Brazilian program Fantastico, which first reported on the leak.
The program showed documents from a meeting of the ‘Five Eyes’ spy network, comprising the US, UK, Canada, New Zealand and Australia, in June of last year. In a presentation the Communications Security Establishment Canada (CSRC) – the Canadian version of the NSA – outlined how they used a program called Olympia to break through the Brazilian ministry’s encryption.
The information gleaned from the ministry was then shared with all of the members of the ‘Five Eyes.’
“They [Five Eyes] are sharing all the information, handing over documents to let other countries know exactly what they are doing,” said Glen Greenwald.
As a result of the infiltration of the ministry over an unspecified period, the CSCE developed a detailed map of the institution’s communications. As well as monitoring email and electronic communications, the CSCE also eavesdropped on telephone conversations. Able to identify mobile numbers, SIM card registrations and the make of a phone, Olympia even snooped on former Brazilian ambassador to Canada Paulo Cordeiro.
Canada has so far refused to comment on the reports of its spy program. Brazil’s Minister of Mines and Energy Edison Lobao told Fantastico that the reports were “serious” and should be condemned.
Canada is one of the world’s leading energy producers and has significant economic interests in Brazil.
“Canada has interests in Brazil, especially in the mining sector. Does this spying serve the commercial interests of select groups? I cannot say,” observed Lobao.
‘No economic espionage’
Previously, Brazilian newspaper Globo News reported that the NSA was monitoring Brazil’s state oil giant Petrobras. Washington reacted to the allegations, stating that the US “does not engage in economic espionage.” The Obama administration has said on a number of occasions that US covert surveillance is in the interests of protecting US national security.
Brazil’s President Dilma Rousseff has condemned the reports of the NSA’s surveillance of Brazil and demanded the US account for its actions.
As a consequence, the Brazilian head of state postponed an official visit to Washington in October. Rousseff has also taken measures to tighten Brazilian internet security.
“I have sent an internet draft bill to Congress, an initiative that will protect the privacy of Brazilians,” Rousseff wrote on Twitter on Sunday. The government is expected to vote on the bill in the coming weeks.
Back in September, Rousseff slammed the US for “economic espionage,” dismissing US claims the NSA spying is a preventative measure to ensure national security. Addressing the UN General Assembly, President Rousseff stated that state-run Petrobras is “no threat to the security of any country. Rather, it represents one of the greatest assets of the world’s oil and the heritage of the Brazilian people.”
Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff lambasted US spying on her country at Tuesday’s UN summit, calling it a “breach of international law.” She further warned that the NSA surveillance, revealed since June, threatened freedom of speech and democracy.
“Meddling in such a manner in the lives and affairs of other countries is a breach of international law and as such it is an affront to the principles that should otherwise govern relations among countries, especially among friendly nations,” Rousseff said.
“Without the right to privacy, there is no real freedom of speech or freedom of opinion,” Rousseff told the gathering of world leaders. “And therefore, there is no actual democracy,” she added, criticizing the fact that Brazil had been targeted by the US.
“A country’s sovereignty can never affirm itself to the detriment of another country’s sovereignty,” she added.
Rousseff went on to propose a multilateral, international governance framework to monitor US surveillance activity. “We must establish multilateral mechanisms for the world wide web,” she said.
Rousseff said that the US’s arguments for spying on Brazil and other UN member states were “untenable”, adding that “Brazil knows how to protect itself” and that the country has been “living in peace with our neighbors for more than 140 years.”
Brazil’s specific targeting in US surveillance practices prompted Rousseff’s government to announce that it intends to adopt both legislation and technology aimed at protecting itself and its businesses from the illegal interception of communications.
A week ago, Rousseff canceled an impending state visit to Washington, scheduled to take place in October, because of indignation over spying revelations. Rousseff has stated she wants an apology from Obama and the United States.
The revelations that the US National Security Agency has been intercepting Rouseff’s own phone calls and e-mails, in addition to those of her aides and officials at state-controlled oil and gas firm Petrobras, have prompted an outcry in Brazil.
Rousseff’s predecessor as Brazilian President, Lula da Silva, said earlier this month that Obama should “personally apologize to the world.” Lula accused the US of “thinking that it can control global communications and ignore the sovereignty of other countries” in an interview with India’s English-language daily The Hindu, published Sept. 10.
Latin America voices widespread indignation at US activities
US relations with all of Latin America have recently soured. In addition to Brazil, Mexico, Bolivia and Venezuela have all voiced anger with the US over the NSA’s surveillance of their countries this year. Bolivia has been especially bitter.
“I would like to announce that we are preparing a lawsuit against Barack Obama to condemn him for crimes against humanity,” President Morales told reporters Friday in the Bolivian city of Santa Cruz. He branded the US president as a “criminal” who had violated international law.
In early July, a plane carrying Morales from Moscow to the Bolivian capital, La Paz, was grounded for 13 hours in Austria after it was banned from European airspace because of US suspicions it was carrying fugitive Edward Snowden, the former NSA contractor who has been responsible for the majority of leaks regarding NSA spying practices since June.
Venezuela wrote to UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon at the end of last week, requesting that he take action in response to the apparent denial of US visas to some members of the Venezuelan delegation who were scheduled to attend the UN General Assembly in New York.
President Nicolas Maduro said that the denial seemed intended to “create logistical obstacles to impede” the visit, and further requested that the UN “demand that the government of the US abide by its international obligations” as host of the 68th UN General Assembly.
Tension between Venezuela and the US rose Thursday when Venezuela’s foreign minister, Elias Jaua, told media outlets that the US had denied a plane carrying Maduro entrance into its airspace. The aircraft was en route to China. Washington later granted the approval, stating that Venezuela’s request had not been properly submitted. Jaua denounced the move as “an act of aggression.”
Despite earlier US assurances that its Department of Defense does not “engage in economic espionage in any domain,” a new report suggests that the intelligence agency NSA spied on Brazilian state-run oil giant Petrobras.
Brazil’s biggest television network Globo TV reported that the information about the NSA spying on Petroleo Brasileiro SA came from Glenn Greenwald, the American journalist who first published secrets leaked by whistleblower Edward Snowden.
Globo TV aired slides from an NSA presentation from 2012 that revealed the agency’s ability to gain access to private networks of companies such as Petrobras and Google Inc.
One slide specified an ‘economic’ motive for spying, along with diplomatic and political reasons.
This seems to contradict a statement made by an NSA spokesman to the Washington Post on August 30, which said that the US Department of Defense “does not engage in economic espionage in any domain, including cyber.”
An official from the NSA told Globo that the agency gathers economic information not to steal secrets, but to watch for financial instability.
Petrobras is known to have discovered some of the world’s biggest offshore oil reserves in recent years.
Some of the new reserves are estimated to be around as 100 billion barrels of oil, according to Rio de Janeiro State University.
None of the leaked slides went into the reasons behind the NSA spying on the Brazilian firm.
The US spy agency then reportedly shared the gathered information with the UK, Canada, Australia and New Zealand.
The new report about US spying on Brazil could intensify the already existing tensions between Brazil and US.
The relationship between the two countries became tense as Globo reported about allegations that NSA has intercepted private communications of Brazil’s President Dilma Rousseff and her Mexican counterpart Enrique Pena Nieto.
Brazil responded by canceling preparations for the presidential visit to the United States and beginning a probe into telecommunications companies to see if they illegally shared data with the NSA. Also, Brazil has asked for a formal apology.
During the G20 summit US tried to address the issue by US President Barack Obama pledging to work with Brazil and Mexico to address their concerns over US spying revealed in recent NSA leaks.
Brazil will probe telecommunications companies to see if they illegally shared data with the NSA after it was found the US had been spying on President Rousseff. Brazil’s government has accused the US of lying about the NSA’s activities in the country.
In response to the revelations, Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff called an emergency meeting of ministers. Following the meeting the government called on the National Telecommunications Agency (Anatel) to carry out checks on telecom companies based in Brazil to see if they collaborated with the NSA.
The Brazilian government denounced the NSA’s activities as “impermissible and unacceptable” and a violation of Brazilian sovereignty.
“[The US has] not given any reasonable explanations. In fact, all the explanations that have been given so far are false,” said Minister of Communications Paulo Bernardo.
The American ambassador to Brazil, Thomas Shannon, was summoned by the government to account for the reports of NSA snooping on Tuesday. He claimed the NSA does not monitor communications on Brazilian territory or collaborate with telecommunications companies.
Citing data leaked by Edward Snowden, Guardian journalist Glenn Greenwald revealed on Sunday that the NSA had been monitoring both the Brazilian and Mexican presidents.
“It is clear in several ways that [Rousseff’s] communications were intercepted, including the use of DNI Presenter, which is a program used by NSA to open and read emails and online chats,” Greenwald told AP in an email.
Brazilian-US relations on rocks
In the wake of the new scandal Brazilian media is speculating whether the spy revelations will lead to a knee-jerk reaction from the Brazilian government and the cancelation of Dilma’s October visit to the States.
Citing a presidential spokesperson, Globo reporter Gerson Camarotti wrote that if a “satisfactory explanation” is not given by the Americans then Dilma “will not rule out canceling the visit.”
“There has to be a convincing explanation. If this doesn’t happen, the situation will become extremely delicate,” said the spokesperson.
US relations with Brazil have worsened considerably as a result of Edward Snowden’s leaks regarding the NSA’s massive spy network. Back in August, UK authorities detained Brazilian citizen David Miranda in a London airport over suspicions he was carrying leaked NSA data on behalf of his partner Glen Greenwald. UK law enforcement held Miranda for nine hours under the terrorist act and confiscated electronic equipment.
Brazil called Miranda’s detention without charges unjustifiable and called on the UK authorities to account for the move. Meanwhile Brazilian lawmakers have called for police protection for Greenwald and his partner.
- BRICS to discuss US spying on Rousseff: Brazil (thebricspost.com)
- Brazilian Senate to probe NSA spying reports (thebricspost.com)
- Brazilian lawmakers call for police protection of Glenn Greenwald and his partner (rt.com)
Lawmakers in Brazil have asked that American journalist Glenn Greenwald and his partner David Miranda receive protection from federal police, due to the importance of their testimony regarding an ongoing investigation of US spying practices.
On Tuesday, the Brazilian Senate began an official investigation into allegations that the National Security Agency (NSA) had been surveilling the country and even intercepted personal emails sent by President Dilma Rousseff.
Greenwald first broke the news of allegations that the NSA had been tapping Brazil’s communications several weeks ago, but a Sunday report aired on Globo TV made more pointed accusations that the Brazilian head of state had been targeted.
The American journalist’s reports of alleged NSA spying operations on South America – based on leaks provided by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden – have been making headlines in Brazil, based in large part on Greenwald’s column with O Globo newspaper.
Sunday’s revelations seemed to be a direct result of the extended detention of Miranda at London’s Heathrow Airport in mid-August. Miranda, a Brazilian national who lives in Rio de Janeiro with Greenwald, was held by officers for nine hours. His electronic equipment was confiscated by authorities. Believing the incident was an attempt at intimidation, Greenwald then indicated that his reporting on Snowden’s leaks would only pick up pace.
In a separate incident in July, Greenwald told media that he believed his home had been broken into and a laptop stolen after he contacted Miranda telling him to expect emailed NSA documents.
The fresh allegations of NSA spying have brought into question president Rousseff’s scheduled state visit to the US in October. Brazil has officially requested an explanation on the new reports by the end of the week, saying that Rousseff’s decision on whether or not to visit Washington will be based on that response.
According to AP, Government security spokesman Eduardo Sanchez confirmed on Tuesday that Brazil’s foreign ministry had contacted the US and requested an “in-depth investigation into the matter.”
During its first meeting on the NSA scandal, Brazil’s Parliamentary Inquiry Commission approved an application for police protection of Greenwald and Miranda.
A member of the committee, Senator Pedro Taques, decried allegations of spying on the country’s leadership.
“There’s been an attempt, not only against our national laws that involve the immunity and safety of our head of state, but other people as well,” he told reporters.
The new report provided by Greenwald also alleges that the NSA targeted Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto, monitoring his communications prior to the country’s July 2012 election.
- Report: NSA targeted Brazil, Mexico leaders (alethonews.wordpress.com)
- Brazil to probe telecom companies implicated in NSA spying (rt.com)
The Union of South American Nations (UNASUR) has approved plans for an optic fibre mega-ring which will break its members’ “dependence on the US, and provide a safer and cheaper means of communication.”
The fibre optic ring will become part of a ten-year plan to physically integrate all 12 UNASUR member states. The line, which will reach up to 10,000 kilometres long and will be managed by state enterprises from each country it crosses, is expected to interconnect South America through higher coverage and cheaper internet connections.
Industrial Minister of Uruguay, Roberto Kreimerman, explained that “it is about having a connection with great capacity that allows us to unite our countries together with the developed world.”
He continued to say, “We are considering that, at most, in a couple of years we will have one of these rings finalised.” He also added that ”I think the economy, security, and integration are the three important things we need in countries where Internet use is advancing exponentially.”
At the moment, up to 80% of Latin America’s communications go through the US. However, plans for an independent communication line comes shortly after the US was discovered to have been spying on Latin American data. The National Security Agency (NSA) were revealed to have been monitoring emails and intercepting telephone logs, spying on energy, military, politics, and terror activity across the continent.
UNASUR is made up of Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Guyana, Paraguay, Peru, Suriname, Uruguay, and Venezuela.
Venezuela is at a critical moment in its Bolivarian revolution, dealing with serious economic issues due to its transitional economy that is under siege by local oligarchs. At the same time, President Nicolás Maduro’s decision to welcome Edward Snowden, if he opts for political asylum in Venezuela, means that the Obama administration is escalating its hostility towards his government.
Venezuela faces a situation analogous to that of the Popular Unity government of Salvador Allende from 1970 to 1973 when, as is well documented, the CIA and the local business class conspired to destabilize the economy, overthrow the democratically elected socialist government, and impose the military dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet.
It is in this context that we find it ill timed at best that Clif Ross has assailed the Venezuelan government with one-sided and flimsy arguments (e.g., criticizing Chávez for choosing to divert electrical power from basic industry to the populace when natural droughts curtailed hydroelectric production) in recent articles at Dissident Voice and CounterPunch Weekend Edition.
A former Chávista, Ross now takes what he describes as an “agnostic” view of the Bolivarian movement. His agnosticism extends to the US-backed opposition, which Ross argued in his talk in Berkeley could be even better for Venezuela if it were to come to power.
As solidarity activists, the Task Force on the Americas is not afflicted with agnostic angst; we support the social justice movements against imperialist intervention. Our responsibility is to allow the Venezuelans to resolve the contradictions within their movement without the interference of the US government.
A class analysis is needed of what is happening in Venezuela. The many problems with the Bolivarian revolution are inherent in trying to create socialism on the foundations of capitalism. Within Chávismo there is an acute awareness of problems, and President Maduro is working on them. We support the overall Bolivarian struggle against outside interference, because the alternative of the opposition in power would mean no opportunity for a people’s agenda.
Ross is concerned about the contagion of state power. None of the 21st century socialist governments in Latin America pass his muster. All are corrupt, authoritarian, and going in the wrong direction in his view.
But it was through state power that the Bolivarian movement in Venezuela distributed land to 300,000 families, halved the poverty rate, reduced extreme poverty by two-thirds, went from being among one of the most economically unequal nations in the Latin America to being the among the most equal, reduced child malnutrition by 40%, increased social expenditures by 60%, built 700,000 homes, and returned 1 million hectares to Indigenous communities.
This same government has promoted community councils and other instruments of participatory democracy. Not surprisingly, according to the annual World Happiness poll, Venezuela is the second happiest country in the world.
A mere decade and a half ago, most analysts would have ranked Venezuela as least likely to stand up on its own two feet to challenge the Empire, to be recognized as sovereign and equal. It was arguably the most sycophantically Americanized nation in South America. In a mere 14 years of the Bolivarian revolution, there has been a blossoming of home grown culture. A sense of national identity and pride has become universal, even among the Miami jet-setting opposition elements.
Today, 32-year old musical wunderkind and avowed Chavista Gustavo Dudamel is not only the music director of the Orquesta Sinfónica Simón Bolívar in Caracas but of the Philharmonic Orchestra in Los Angeles. Culture is still being imported, but the shipping lanes are going both ways now.
The Bolivarian revolution is considered a major threat by the US empire. The US has a stated policy of regime change for Venezuela, spending millions of dollars on “democracy promotion” to demonize and destabilize the Bolivarian movement. With the US as the sole super power having an uncontested military superiority, the Bolivarian revolution is all the more of a threat because it is a “threat of a good example.”
In 2008, when the US financial crisis precipitated a world recession, the capitalist solution was to impose austerity measures on working people with increased unemployment and economic insecurity. In contrast, the Venezuelan government reduced the gap between rich and poor by elevating the poor.
As James Petras has pointed out, US policy toward Venezuela has taken many tactical turns. But the enduring objective has been the same: oust the Chavistas, reverse the nationalization of big businesses, abolish the mass community and worker based councils, and revert the country into a client-state. These are the salient issues the solidarity movement needs to address.
Roger D. Harris is President of the Task Force on the Americas, a 29-year-old human rights organization based in Marin County, which works in solidarity with the social justice movements in Latin America and in opposition to US interference with their self-determination. Visit Roger’s website.
- Venezuela ends normalization of US relations (alethonews.wordpress.com)
- Venezuela arrests Colombian paramilitaries plotting instability (alethonews.wordpress.com)
South American countries belonging to the Mercosur trade bloc have decided to withdraw their ambassadors for consultations from European countries involved in the grounding of the Bolivian president’s plane.
“We’ve taken a number of actions in order to compel public explanations and apologies from the European nations that assaulted our brother Evo Morales,” explained Venezuela’s President Nicolas Maduro, who revealed some of the agenda debated during the 45th summit of Mercosur countries in Uruguay’s capital, Montevideo.
The decision to recall European ambassadors was taken by Maduro, Argentina’s President Cristina Fernandez, Brazilian President Dilma Rouseff, and Uruguay’s President, Jose Mujica, during the meeting.
Member states attending the summit expressed their grievances with “actions by the governments of France, Spain, Italy and Portugal” over the July 2 incident, when the aircraft carrying President Evo Morales back to Bolivia after attending an energy summit in Moscow was denied entry into the airspace of a number of EU member states.
The small aircraft, which required a stop-over before completing its flight, was forced to make an emergency landing in Austria after a circuitous flight path.
It was later revealed that the European countries’ actions were prompted by accusations made by the US ambassador to Austria, William Eacho, who alleged that American whistleblower Edward Snowden had been taken on board to help him gain political asylum in Latin America.
“The gravity of the incident – indicative of a neocolonial mindset – constitutes an unfriendly and hostile act, which violates human rights and impedes freedom of travel, as well as the treatment and immunity appropriate to a head of state,” the Mercosur nations affirmed in the joint statement.
The incident was further described as a “discriminatory and arbitrary” decision by European countries, as well as a “blatant violation of international law.”
Ecuador renounced trade benefits which the US threatened to revoke over the Latin American country’s consideration of harboring NSA leaker Edward Snowden. It offered $23 million a year to fund human rights education for Americans instead.
The government of leftist President Rafael Correa came up with an angry response on Thursday after an influential US senator said he would use his leverage over trade issues to cut preferential treatment of Ecuadoran goods at the US market, should Ecuador grant political asylum to Snowden.
“Ecuador will not accept pressures or threats from anyone, and it does not traffic in its values or allow them to be subjugated to mercantile interests,” government spokesman Fernando Alvarado said at a news conference.
He added that Ecuador is willing to allocate $23 million annually, an equivalent of the sum that it gained from the benefits, to fund human rights training in the US. It will “avoid violations of privacy, torture and other actions that are denigrating to humanity,” Alvarado said.
US Senator Robert Menendez, who heads the Foreign Relations Committee in the Senate, said this week that Ecuador risks losing the benefits it enjoys under two trade programs because of its stance on the NSA whistleblower.
“Our government will not reward countries for bad behavior,” he said.
The US is Ecuador’s prime trade partner, with over 40 percent of exports going to the US market.
Both programs were due to expire by the end of next month and were subject to congressional review. Before the Snowden debacle arose, the US legislature was expected to scrap one of them while renewing another one.
Snowden has applied for political asylum, hoping to find protection from American prosecutors, who charged him with espionage over his leaking of classified documents on US surveillance programs.
He is currently thought to be staying in the transit zone of a Moscow airport. He became stranded in the Russian capital after arriving from Hong Kong, because the US annulled his travel passport as part of its effort to get him to American soil for trial.
Brazil’s legislative body has thrown out a proposed constitutional amendment, which was a key grievance of protesters across the country. The government is also planning to introduce a range of political reforms to appease demonstrators.
In what in being seen as a victory for people power, the measure was defeated on Tuesday by Congress by 430 votes to nine; with the Rio Times saying the protests were “largely fueled by social media and citizen journalists.”
The amendment, known as PEC 37, would have limited the power of state prosecutors to investigate crimes.
The protesters had argued that PEC 37 might have opened the way to more corruption; a problem which is endemic in Brazil.
Brazil ranks 69 out of 174 countries on the 2012 Transparency International index, a score that indicates significant problems with corruption.
The defeat of PEC 37 will keep public prosecutors at the forefront of the fight against corruption. If the amendment had become law, it would have granted power to carry out criminal investigations exclusively to the police.
Critics to the bill argued that it would have prevented prosecutors from conducting fair, impartial and effective criminal investigations, particularly into organized crime and corruption, in which the police themselves have been embroiled. In December last year 63 police officers were arrested after a yearlong bribery investigation.
The police in Brazil are amongst the most corrupt in the world and have been mired in recent years in a number of corruption scandals.
Congress also voted Tuesday to funnel all revenue and royalties from newly-discovered oil fields off the Brazilian coast into education and health.
The new fields are among the largest finds in recent years and, once fully operational, are expected to produce tens of billions of barrels of oil; although they are located deep on the ocean floor and extracting the oil will require expensive new technology and carries huge risks.
Protestors also voiced their anger at other issues, which they say the government is mishandling, including soaring levels of corruption, poor public services and the huge cost of staging the 2014 World Cup and 2016 Summer Olympics, both to be held in Brazil.
The government, though, has promised a range of initiatives, which they say will combat corruption and improve public services.
A referendum proposing political reform is meant to address campaign financing and political representation, and the government says a vote may take place as soon as September 7.
A controversial plan to bring in foreign doctors to reverse a shortfall in the country is being pushed through despite the objections of Brazilian medical practitioners and an increase in public transport fares in many cities has also been scrapped. The President of the Senate, Renan Calheiros, has even proposed free transport for students.
Yet it is still unclear whether or not these hasty political concessions are having an impact. Protests are due to continue in the city of Belo Horizonte Wednesday, with tens of thousands of people expected to take part.
In a security nightmare for police, the demonstration will take place at the same time as the semifinal of the Confederation Cup between Brazil and Uruguay. One protest group has said it plans to protest outside the national team’s hotel.
Last Saturday there were violent clashes in Belo Horizonte during another protest and President Rousseff has warned against a repeat of violence.
The US has declared “sanctions” on four alleged “ambassadors” of the Lebanese Islamic resistance group Hezbollah, citing the movement’s role in pushing back foreign-backed insurgents in Syria as well as its rising influence in West Africa.
The US Treasury Department announced Tuesday that it was imposing what appear to be vague sanctions against the four Lebanese individuals whom it claims are “fundraising and recruiting for Hezbollah” in efforts to expand its influence in West Africa, as well as South America and Middle East, The Los Angeles Times reports Wednesday.
Citing US officials, the report states the four men were acting as Hezbollah “ambassadors” in Sierra Leone, Senegal, Ivory Coast and Gambia.
The daily further quotes US Treasury officials as underlining “the alarming reach of Hezbollah’s activities,” pointing to the Islamic movement’s “growing military role” in the recent triumph of the Syrian Army over foreign-sponsored militant gangs that have waged a destructive war on the country in largely US-led attempts to overthrow the government of President Bashar al-Assad.
The mostly symbolic sanctions, according to the report, “grew out of an investigation of what Treasury said are Hezbollah’s expanding activities abroad, including in South America, the Middle East and Africa.”
The sanctions would supposedly “freeze any assets” the four men “may have in the United States and sever them from any contact with the US financial system.”
However, it is not even clear if and how much the Lebanese individuals, identified as Ali Ibrahim Watfa, Abbas Loutfe Jawaz, Ali Achmad Chehade and Hicham Nmer Khanafer, have under the control of American financial institutions.
The US government has in the past repeatedly “imposed” meaningless sanctions, in the form of freezing funds, against a number of Iranian individuals and officials that have absolutely no ties or holdings in the US or American financial institutions.
The development comes as the American government and some of its allies, including the Saudi Kingdom, have protested the supportive role of Hezbollah forces behind the Syrian Army to flush out mostly al-Qaeda-linked armed gangs that have terrorized the nation with massive weapons supplied to them through Turkey, Jordan and Lebanon by mostly Persian Gulf Arab kingdoms, with US and European blessings.