Hamas’s Corporate Empire Spans the Middle East

Besides the funds it receives from Qatar and Iran, and the revenue it generates from taxing its population, Hamas also operates an extensive network of shell companies and businesses. Sean O’Driscoll explores the terrorist group’s complex financial web:

By examining business records and cross-referencing them with the sanctions lists, Newsweek’s investigation shows how Hamas is using some of its key personnel to set up such companies around the Middle East and elsewhere to run its financial empire—often in places where, one expert said, it may find tacit approval for such operations. They include businesses in the United Arab Emirates, Turkey, Algeria, Saudi Arabia, and Sudan, and may even reveal how the group is expanding into Western Europe.

Newsweek found that one Yemeni business administrator is the joint owner of Hamas’s UAE property company, which owned an office block worth $150 million; is the co-founder of a Hamas-linked, publicly traded Turkish construction company; owns 20 percent of a Hamas front company in Saudi Arabia; and is on the board of another Hamas-linked Sudanese company. Separately, company records show an accountant from the West Bank is central to four major construction and real-estate companies in three countries: Turkey, Sudan, and Saudi Arabia.

The network appears to be growing. A wealthy Sudanese businessman who had close ties to Osama bin Laden, the late al-Qaeda leader, and who is described by the U.S. Treasury Department as a “Hamas financier,” set up a Hamas-linked company in Spain last December, corporate filings show.

Read more at Newsweek

More about: Hamas, Middle East, Turkey, United Arab Emirates

Iran’s Calculations and America’s Mistake

There is little doubt that if Hizballah had participated more intensively in Saturday’s attack, Israeli air defenses would have been pushed past their limits, and far more damage would have been done. Daniel Byman and Kenneth Pollack, trying to look at things from Tehran’s perspective, see this as an important sign of caution—but caution that shouldn’t be exaggerated:

Iran is well aware of the extent and capability of Israel’s air defenses. The scale of the strike was almost certainly designed to enable at least some of the attacking munitions to penetrate those defenses and cause some degree of damage. Their inability to do so was doubtless a disappointment to Tehran, but the Iranians can probably still console themselves that the attack was frightening for the Israeli people and alarming to their government. Iran probably hopes that it was unpleasant enough to give Israeli leaders pause the next time they consider an operation like the embassy strike.

Hizballah is Iran’s ace in the hole. With more than 150,000 rockets and missiles, the Lebanese militant group could overwhelm Israeli air defenses. . . . All of this reinforces the strategic assessment that Iran is not looking to escalate with Israel and is, in fact, working very hard to avoid escalation. . . . Still, Iran has crossed a Rubicon, although it may not recognize it. Iran had never struck Israel directly from its own territory before Saturday.

Byman and Pollack see here an important lesson for America:

What Saturday’s fireworks hopefully also illustrated is the danger of U.S. disengagement from the Middle East. . . . The latest round of violence shows why it is important for the United States to take the lead on pushing back on Iran and its proxies and bolstering U.S. allies.

Read more at Foreign Policy

More about: Iran, Israeli Security, U.S. Foreign policy