A New Jersey Muslim convert, Gregory Lepsky, also known as Allah Abdel Rochman, has been arrested after trying to butcher his family dog (because Muslims think dogs are dirty) and then become a martyr for ISIS by blowing himself up with a pressure cooker bomb in Manhattan, federal authorities charged Friday.
FOX News Gregory Lepsky, 20, of Point Pleasant, was charged with one count of attempting to provide material support to ISIS. Lepsky was arrested at his home in February after the incident involving the family pet, and police subsequently discovered a pressure cooker and a digital trail indicating a Boston Marathon-style bomb plot, prosecutors said in Newark Federal Court.
Lepsky reportedly said he was going to place the bomb in a busy area of New York City — specifically in Manhattan — in order to kill as many people as possible.
Lepsky, a recent convert to Islam who goes by Allah Abdel Rochman, allegedly had previously told people via social media that he intended to fight on behalf of ISIS, and intended to deliver “a bunch of explosives” to where the “enemies” could be found.
“During searches of computers and other digital evidence linked to Lepsky, law enforcement found evidence of Lepsky’s plan to build and detonate a bomb as part of his support for ISIS,” federal prosecutors charged.
Both Lepsky and the dog were wounded when police initially responded on Feb. 21, and Lepsky allegedly told police while being treated at a hospital he planned to carry out his attack in New York City. The complaint said he told officials he pledged his allegiance to “Allah,” was planning to kill his mother and fatally stabbed his dog because it was considered “dirty.”
“Lepsky expressed regret for having tried to kill the family dog because, according to him, if he had not done so, the police would not have discovered his plan,” FBI agent Tara Jerussi wrote in a complaint filed Friday.
According to the official narrative, the reason for the latest Gulf crisis in which a coalition of Saudi-led states cut off diplomatic and economic ties with Qatar, is because – to everyone’s “stunned amazement” – Qatar was funding terrorists, and after Trump’s recent visit to Saudi Arabia in which he urged a crackdown on financial support of terrorism, and also following the FT’s report that Qatar has directly provided $1 billion in funding to Iran and al-Qaeda spinoffs, Saudi Arabia finally had had enough of its “rogue” neighbor, which in recent years had made ideologically unacceptable overtures toward both Shia Iran and Russia.
However, as often happens, the official narrative is traditionally a convenient smokescreen from the real underlying tensions.
The real reason behind the diplomatic fallout may be far simpler, and once again has to do with a long-running and controversial topic, namely Qatar’s regional natural gas dominance.
Recall that many have speculated (with evidence going back as far back as 2012) that one of the reasons for the long-running Syria proxy war was nothing more complex than competing gas pipelines, with Qatar eager to pass its own pipeline, connecting Europe to its vast natural gas deposits, however as that would put Gazprom’s monopoly of European LNG supply in jeopardy, Russia had been firmly, and violently, against this strategy from the beginning and explains Putin’s firm support of the Assad regime and the Kremlin’s desire to prevent the replacement of the Syrian government with a puppet regime.
Now, in a separate analysis, Bloomberg also debunks the “official narrative” behind the Gulf crisis and suggests that Saudi Arabia’s isolation of Qatar, “and the dispute’s long past and likely lingering future are best explained by natural gas.”
The reasons for nat gas as the source of discord are numerous and start in 1995 “when the tiny desert peninsula was about to make its first shipment of liquid natural gas from the world’s largest reservoir. The offshore North Field, which provides virtually all of Qatar’s gas, is shared with Iran, Saudi Arabia’s hated rival.”
The result to Qatar’s finances was similar to the windfall that Saudi Arabia reaped from its vast crude oil wealth.
The wealth that followed turned Qatar into not just the world’s richest nation, with an annual per-capita income of $130,000, but also the world’s largest LNG exporter. The focus on gas set it apart from its oil producing neighbors in the Gulf Cooperation Council and allowed it to break from domination by Saudi Arabia, which in Monday’s statement of complaint described Qataris as an “extension of their brethren in the Kingdom” as it cut off diplomatic relations and closed the border.
In short, over the past two decades, Qatar become the single biggest natural gas powerhouse in the region, with only Russia’s Gazprom able to challenge Qatar’s influence in LNG exports.
To be sure, Qatar has shown a remarkable ability to shift its ideological allegiance, with the FT reporting as recently as 2013, that initially Qatar was a staunch supporter, backer and financier of the Syrian rebels, tasked to topple the Assad regime, a process which could culminate with the creation of the much maligned trans-Syrian pipeline.
The tiny gas-rich state of Qatar has spent as much as $3bn over the past two years supporting the rebellion in Syria, far exceeding any other government, but is now being nudged aside by Saudi Arabia as the prime source of arms to rebels.
The cost of Qatar’s intervention, its latest push to back an Arab revolt, amounts to a fraction of its international investment portfolio. But its financial support for the revolution that has turned into a vicious civil war dramatically overshadows western backing for the opposition.
As the years passed, Qatar grew to comprehend that Russia would not allow its pipeline to traverse Syria, and as a result it strategically pivoted in a pro-Russia direction, and as we showed yesterday, Qatar’s sovereign wealth fund agreed last year to invest $2.7 billion in Russia’s state-run Rosneft Oil, even as Qatar is host of the largest US military base in the region, US Central Command. This particular pivot may have also added to fears that Qatar was becoming a far more active supporter of a Russia-Iran-Syria axis in the region, its recent financial and ideological support of Iran notwithstanding.
As a result of the tiny nation’s growing financial and political “independence”, its neighbors grew increasingly frustrated and concerned: “Qatar used to be a kind of Saudi vassal state, but it used the autonomy that its gas wealth created to carve out an independent role for itself,” said Jim Krane, energy research fellow at Rice University’s Baker Institute, quoted by Bloomberg.
Furthermore, Qatar’s natural gas output has been “free from entanglement” – and political pressure – in the OPEC, the oil cartel that Saudi Arabia dominates.
“The rest of the region has been looking for an opportunity to clip Qatar’s wings.”
And, as Bloomberg adds, “that opportunity came with U.S. President Donald Trump’s recent visit to Saudi Arabia, when he called on “all nations of conscience” to isolate Iran. When Qatar disagreed publicly, in a statement the government later said was a product of hacking, the Saudi-led retribution followed.”
To be sure, in a series of tweets, Trump himself doubled down on the “official narraitve”, taking credit for Qatar’s isolation (perhaps forgetting that a US base is housed in the small nation).
The cynics may be forgiven to assume that if Trump is tweeting that the reason for Qatar’s isolation is “to end the horror of terrorism”, even as the US just signed a $100+ billion arms deal with the single biggest supporter of terrorism in the world, Saudi Arabia, then indeed the Trump-endorsed “narrative” is to be dismissed outright.
Which again brings us back to nat gas, where Qatar rapidly emerged as the dominant, and lowest cost producer at a time when its neighbors started demanding the commodity on their own, giving the tiny state all the leverage. As Bloomberg adds “demand for natural gas to produce electricity and power industry has been growing in the Gulf states. They’re having to resort to higher-cost LNG imports and exploring difficult domestic gas formations that are expensive to get out of the ground, according to the research. Qatar’s gas has the lowest extraction costs in the world.”
Of course, with financial wealth came the need to spread political infludence: ”
Qatar gas wealth enabled it to develop foreign policies that came to irritate its neighbors. It backed the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, Hamas in the Gaza Strip and armed factions opposed by the UAE or Saudi Arabia in Libya and Syria. Gas also paid for a global television network, Al Jazeera, which at various times has embarrassed or angered most Middle Eastern governments.
And, above all, “gas prompted Qatar to promote a regional policy of engagement with Shiite Iran to secure the source of its wealth.”
And here the source of tension emerged: because as Steven Wright, Ph.D. Associate Professor at Qatar University told Bloomberg, “you can question why Qatar has been unwilling to supply its neighboring countries, making them gas poor,” said Wright, the academic, speaking by telephone from the Qatari capital Doha. “There probably was an expectation that Qatar would sell gas to them at a discount price.”
It did not, and instead it took a step backward in 2005, when Qatar declared a moratorium on the further development of the North Field that could have provided more gas for local export, adding to the frustrations of its neighbors.
Qatar said it needed to test how the field was responding to its exploitation, denying that it was bending to sensitivities in Iran, which had been much slower to draw gas from its side of the shared field. That two-year moratorium was lifted in April, a decade late, after Iran for the first time caught up with Qatar’s extraction rates.
As Qatar refused to yield, the resentment grew.
“People here are scratching their heads as to exactly what the Saudis expect Qatar to do,” said Gerd Nonneman, professor of international relations and Gulf studies at Georgetown University’s Doha campus. “They seem to want Qatar to cave in completely, but it won’t call the Muslim Brotherhood a terrorist organization, because it isn’t. And it isn’t going to excommunicate Iran, because that would jeopardize a relationship that is just too fundamental to Qatar’s economic development.”
* * *
Whether nat gas is the source of the Qatari isolation will depend on the next steps by both Saudi Arabia and Iran. Saudi Arabia, along with the United Arab Emirates and Egypt – are all highly reliant on Qatari gas via pipeline and LNG.
According to Reuters, traders startled by the development, have begun to plan for all eventualities, especially any upsets to piped gas supplies from Qatar to the UAE. The UAE consumes 1.8 billion cubic feet/day of Qatari gas via the Dolphin pipeline, and has LNG purchase agreements with its neighbor, leaving it doubly exposed to tit-for-tat measures, industry sources and traders said.
So far flows through Dolphin are unaffected but traders say even a partial shutdown would ripple through global gas markets by forcing the UAE to seek replacement LNG supply just as its domestic demand peaks.
With LNG markets in bearish mood and demand weak, the UAE could cope with Qatar suspending its two to three monthly LNG deliveries by calling on international markets, but Dolphin piped flows are too large to fully replace.
“A drop off in Dolphin deliveries would have a huge impact on LNG markets,” one trader monitoring developments said.
And since it all boils down to who has the most leverage as this latest regional “balance of power” crisis unfolds, Qatar could simply take the Mutual Assured Destruction route, and halt all pipeline shipments to its neighbors crippling both theirs, and its own, economy in the process, to find just where the point of “max pain” is located.
Update: CNN Responds Below
Update 2: Same protesters, multiple locations?
Being one of the more inept tentacles of the deep state, CNN was apparently caught staging Fake News in the aftermath of the ISIS claimed London attacks which claimed 7 lives and injured 48.
While ISIS supporters are celebrating the attacks, MSM propagandists have been hard at work pushing the “religion of peace” narrative – trotting out hijabbed women and a child to hold signs expressing Muslim outrage at the terrorist attacks.
This doesn’t appear to have been an ‘organic’ protest against terrorism, instead, it looks very much like CNN staged their outrage.
Caught on Video
AP used the same pictures:
London’s Borough neighborhood offers safety and a place to sleep for hundreds amid the chaos of terror attack. http://apne.ws/2rGLIKc
Attack brings out the best in London’s Borough neighborhood
LONDON (AP) — When Sue Brinklow dashed into The Lord Clyde pub during Saturday night’s attack on London Bridge, she was among hundreds of people who found safety and a place to sl
UPDATE: CNN RESPONDS
UPDATE 2: Multiple Locations?
The FT has unveiled what its believes is the key trigger behind the shocking overnight collapse in diplomatic relations between Qatar and its Gulf neighbors. According to the FT, the catalyst that forced the Saudis and their allies to unveil the cut in diplomatic and economic ties, is that Qatar allegedly paid up to $1 billion to Iran and al-Qaeda affiliates “to release members of the Gulf state’s royal family who were kidnapped in Iraq while on a hunting trip, according to people involved in the hostage deal“; the secret deal was allegedly one of the triggers behind Gulf states’ dramatic decision to cut ties with Doha.
The details of the payoff: “around $700m was paid both to Iranian figures and the regional Shia militias they support, according to regional government officials. They added that $200m to $300m went to Islamist groups in Syria, most of that to Tahrir al-Sham, a group with links to al-Qaeda.”
A regional Arab official said the total paid to jihadi groups was closer to $300m. “So, if you add that up to the other $700m they paid to Iran and its proxies, that means Qatar actually spent about a billion dollars on this crazy deal,” he said.
* * *
The Iraqi Shia militia commanders in Iraq, all from hardline Iranian-backed groups, said that, to their knowledge, Iran had obtained around $400m after giving them a payment they would not disclose. They agreed to share some details because they were unhappy about their share of the payment.
“They [the Iranians] took the lion’s share,” said a member of one of the Iranian-backed Shia militias in Iraq. “That’s caused some of us to be frustrated, because that was not the deal.”
The “ransom payments are the straw that broke the camel’s back,” said one Gulf observer.
Not to be confused with the Obama administration secretly airlifting crates full of $1.7 billion in cash to Tehran to release five US hostages held by Iran, the FT writes that commanders of militant groups and government officials in the region told the Financial Times that “Doha spent the money in a transaction that secured the release of 26 members of a Qatari hunting party in southern Iraq and about 50 militants captured by jihadis in Syria.”
By their telling, Qatar paid off two of the most frequently blacklisted forces of the Middle East in one fell swoop: an al-Qaeda affiliate fighting in Syria and Iranian security officials.
If nothing else, at least Qatar got a better bang for the physical buck, at $38 million per hostage, compared to the $340 million the Obama administration paid for the five US hostages released by Tehran.
While there is no official evidence, the FT adds that the deal, which was concluded in April, heightened concerns among Qatar’s neighbours about the small gas-rich state’s role in a region plagued by conflict and bitter rivalries, which however is at least somewhat confusing: after all it was well-known since the Podesta emails that even the US state department had confirmed that both Saudi Arabia and Qatar were the two primary funders of the Islamic State and various Jihidaist groups in the region. Recall from our October 2016 post:
In a leaked email sent on August 17, 2014 by Hillary Clinton to her current campaign manager, John Podesta, who back then was counselor to Barack Obama, she admitted that Qatar and Saudi Arabia “are providing clandestine financial and logistic support to ISIL and other radical Sunni groups in the region.”
The email, which was sent just days after the US launched it “temporary” air campaign in Syria, which has now extended over two years, represents an eight-point plan laying out ideas how to defeat ISIS in Iraq and Syria. Clinton’s email said that the United States should engage in “military operations against these very irregular but determined forces” by “making proper use of clandestine/special operations resources, in coordination with airpower, and established local allies” such as Kurdish forces.
Having confirmed the role of Qatar and Saudi Arabia, Hillary then states that “we need to use our diplomatic and more traditional intelligence assets to bring pressure on the governments of Qatar and Saudi Arabia” and recommends to step up US commitment to the Kurdish Regional Government or KRG. “The Qataris and Saudis will be put in a position of balancing policy between their ongoing competition to dominate the Sunni world and the consequences of serious U.S. pressure. By the same token, the threat of similar, realistic U.S. operations will serve to assist moderate forces in Libya, Lebanon, and even Jordan, where insurgents are increasingly fascinated by the ISIL success in Iraq.”
In any case, last year’s revalation appears to have been “news” to Saudi Arabia – the other named source of funding to ISIS, and on Monday, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain took the extraordinary step of cutting off diplomatic ties and transport links to Qatar, alleging the country fuels extremism and terrorism.“
The FT further notes that “Doha denies it backs terrorist groups and dismissed the blockade by its neighbours as “founded on allegations that have no basis in fact”. It said it could not immediately respond to a request for comment on the hostage deal. But a person close to the Qatari government acknowledged that “payments” were made. The person was unaware of the amounts or where the money went.”
Doha has a history of reaching out to all kinds of controversial groups, from rebels in Sudan’s Darfur region to the Taliban in Afghanistan and Hamas in Gaza. Qatar touts itself as a neutral player that can act as an intermediary in regional conflicts. But its critics, notably Saudi Arabia and the UAE, allege it also uses such interventions to play both sides and fund radical Islamist groups, most recently in Libya and Syria. And to Doha’s critics, the hostage deal was further evidence of that role.
In an amusing twist, one FT source – a Syrian opposition figure who has worked with an al-Qaeda mediator on hostage swaps in Syria. – adds that “if you want to know how Qatar funds jihadis, look no further than the hostage deal…. And this isn’t the first — it is one of a series since the beginning of the war.”
Those who spoke to the FT said the deal highlighted how Qatar has allegedly used hostage payments to bankroll jihadis in Syria. But to its Gulf neighbours, the biggest issue is likely to be the fact that Doha could have paid off their main regional rival, Iran, which they accuse of fuelling conflicts in the Arab world.
This particular saga began when an Iranian-backed Iraqi Shia militia, known as Kata’eb Hizbollah, kidnapped the Qataris in December 2015. Three Iraqi militia leaders say the hostages were held in Iran.
Kata’eb Hizbollah is an Iraqi group but it is seen as having links with Iran’s main regional proxy, Hizbollah, the Lebanese militant group. The latter is helping Iran back Bashar al-Assad, the Syrian president, in his country’s six-year conflict.
It gets better: the hostage transaction was also linked to a separate agreement, signed in March 2017, to facilitate the evacuation of four mutually besieged towns in Syria — two surrounded by jihadi forces and two besieged by Shia militias — according to the FT’s sources: “Syrian rebels and diplomats.” One western diplomat said the arrangement provided Qatar the “cover” to finance the hostage deal.
“Iran and Qatar had long been looking for a cover to do this [hostage] deal, and they finally found it,” he said.
According to two opposition figures with close contact with the groups paid, Qatar used the evacuation arrangement to pay $120-$140m to Tahrir al-Sham. Another $80m, they said, went to the Islamist group Ahrar al-Sham. “The Qataris pay anyone and everyone, to what end? They have only brought about our ruin,” said a Syrian rebel commander, who gave details about the payments but asked not to be identified.
* * *
Going back to our analogy of Obama dumping crates of cash – anywhere between $400 million and $1.7 billion – in Iran, it appears this time was not that different:
Another confusing chapter of the deal is that Haidar al-Abadi, Iraqi prime minister, said in April his government had seized hundreds of millions of dollars, which Iraqi officials said arrived on Qatari planes “illegally”. It is not clear if this is money is part of the sums mentioned above, or an additional amount.
The punchline: “The money all came in suitcases, can you imagine this?” said one senior official.
And while Qatar has now been scapegoated for funding Al-Qaeda and ISIS, something most have known for years, a question emerges: does this mean that Saudi Arabia – another chronic supporter of terrorism in the region and around the globe – is now off the hook. That would be problematic in light of Saudi Arabia’s own on the record admission that it itself created Daesh, or ISIS, which however it allegedly did only in response to Obama’s disastrous policy in the region. From the Financial Times:
After the Iraqi city of Mosul fell to a lightning Isis offensive in 2014, even the late Prince Saud al-Faisal, the respected Saudi foreign minister, remonstrated with John Kerry, US secretary of state, that “Daesh [Isis] is our [Sunni] response to your support for the Da’wa” — the Tehran-aligned Shia Islamist ruling party of Iraq.