Quadrant B: U.S. must not underappreciate the risks from China’s military and economic ambitions

Middle Eastern analysts aren’t alone in worrying about the geopolitical risks from China’s diplomatic and trade drive against the United States. Australia’s prime minister has just called for consideration to exclude China from the…

Quadrant B: U.S. must not underappreciate the risks from China’s military and economic ambitions

Middle Eastern analysts aren’t alone in worrying about the geopolitical risks from China’s diplomatic and trade drive against the United States. Australia’s prime minister has just called for consideration to exclude China from the Free Trade Agreement once it is signed because of China’s security policies in the region. It’s not clear whether any reciprocal action will be taken.

Congress and the public may be piqued, too, if the question of “foreign ownership” of U.S. companies becomes a litmus test in scrutiny of pending trade deals. According to a report by Reuters, U.S. and EU officials are also raising concerns over the proliferation of foreign-owned companies operating in the region, with the mention of offshore companies. As the report notes, Saudi Arabia has attacked Western companies for allowing companies based outside the kingdom to do business there.

Given this background, the story reported by Fox News reporters Amy Tennery and Scott Gordon is of the utmost concern. It points to Saudi national Mohammed Badreddin al-Qahtani, who owns Air Mail Computers, as one of the key players in a massive web of trans-Atlantic partnerships to get weapons for the Syrian regime and other terrorist actors. It also claims that these weapons were then carried from Iran to Lebanon, where Hezbollah fighters are headquartered. An Offshore company owned by him and named Bombardier Inc. was also used to ship the munitions from Iran to Syria. The company did not respond to FOX News requests for comment.

Qahtani served for five years in an Iranian prison for his part in the 1994 bombing of the Jewish community center in Buenos Aires. A federal grand jury in Louisiana recently indicted him for dealing in stocks and bonds, after an investment scam scheme failed. But an Offshore shell company was used to hide ownership of two Citadel Conversions Dollars, which were used to buy land in Iran. These convertible dollars bought stock shares in a Colombian company associated with Ahmad Rahimi, a man arrested on an alleged connection to the Chelsea bombing that injured dozens of people.

Damascus’ allegiances are unclear, but the weaponry purchased through the Russian company traded by Citadel Conversions could come from Syrian arms exports to Iran. In August, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad appeared before the United Nations to speak in favor of lifting sanctions, just hours after President Trump had tweeted he had ordered the expulsion of all Syrian diplomats from the United States. It’s difficult to determine how much of this trading actually benefits the Assad regime, but so long as Assad is a partner with Iran for missile development and construction of nuclear plants, he is bound to the Assad regime.

The weaponry sent from the United States to Syria includes a massive bomb, more conventional weapons, and communications gear. The United States has no connection to the Qahtani or anyone else in the firm. We remain worried that the Syrian-Iranian nexus will strengthen over time, as the devastation in the region intensifies. The urgency of confronting the crisis should not be underestimated.

A security breakout could devastate the Middle East, the West, and Europe.

Frank Gaffney is president of the Center for Security Policy. Jon Henke, a former assistant secretary of state, is director of national security policy studies. Terrence Mosher is a former head of foreign-intelligence collection at the Defense Intelligence Agency. Michael Hudson is an economist and author.

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