How is this possible? (see last Update, April 23, 2009)
Remember Samir Ambrose Vincent (aka Sam Vincent), the Saddam agent turned FBI fink?
Well, since tattling to the feds, and consequently being sentenced to probation and a $300,000 fine last April in return for his cooperation, Vincent has been trying to get back into the Iraqi oil business.
To that end, he’s established Virginia Global Energy Consultants (VAGEC), with offices in the DC area, Amman, Istanbul and Baghdad.
Vincent fessed up to performing many services for the Iraqi intelligence service, the mukhaberat, to which he was vouched for by Nizar Hamdoon, a school friend and one of the original members of Jihaz Haneen, the embryo of the Ba’ath’s murder machine. One job that Vincent allegedly did was to ‘mule’ around hundreds of thousands of dollars in cash to bribe United Nations officials as part of what came to be known as the ‘Oil-for-Food’ scandal.
Samir Vincent with Saddam Hussein
Vincent, 69, an Iraqi-American Chaldean Christian, was handsomely rewarded for his services:
Vincent received about $310,000 under the oil-for-food program and five oil contracts from which his company, Phoenix International LLC, made $1.9 million in profit, O'Callaghan said.Notice how the ‘fine’ he had to pay was even less than the cash he personally received from the Saddam regime.
But that’s not the most offensive part of this whole thing. What’s really offensive are who his partners are: Steve Solarz (former Democratic congressman from New York, advisor to VAGEC), Nick Veliotes (former U.S. ambassador to Egypt and Jordan, Vice President of VAGEC), Frank Carlucci (former Secretary of Defense under Reagan, Director of Vagec), and Jeffrey Smith (GC of the CIA under Clinton, General Counsel for VAGEC).
These guys couldn’t find anyone less radioactive than Vincent to partner up with?
I don’t have a problem with these folks doing business in Iraq; Iraq needs all the business facilitation it can get. But to partner up with someone like Vincent, with all the crap that’s in his background? That just doesn’t even make sound business sense.
[Note: the head of VAGEC’s Istanbul office is ‘Fadhel Othman’; Fadhel Ali Othman was formerly the Director General of Engineering Affairs at the Iraqi Southern Oil Bureau during the Saddam years. He currently represents Portuguese and Turkish oil companies seeking to do business in Iraq. The head of VAGEC’s Baghdad office is ‘Dr. Talal Kenaan’; Talal Ashour Kenaan was formerly Director General of Oil Fields at the Iraqi Ministry of Oil. He then served as the head of the Oil Committee in Saddam’s parliament. Later, he was appointed as advisor with the rank of ambassador at Saddam’s Presidential Office. Kenaan received his PhD from France, and held the rank of division (shu’ba) member in the Ba’ath Party. He currently resides in Amman, Jordan.]
What’s most striking about this group is Stephen Solarz, who’s been known for his honorable support of the Iraqi opposition against Saddam for decades. Solarz could have found many open doors in Baghdad by simply leveraging his past. But working with Vincent is not honorable at all.
Veliotes, I can see: I remember that he was busy bad-mouthing the Iraqi opposition at the behest (and pay) of the Qataris. I can see someone like him involved in all sorts of mercenary business exploits. But why would Solarz do this to his own name?
A couple of liberal reporters went ballistic when a past association was found between Vincent and William Timmons right before the presidential elections last year, after they had mischaracterized Timmons as McCain’s ‘transition director’—a title denied by the McCain campaign. At the time, I was incensed too: Vincent is bad news, and that bad odor would have clung to all those who have worked with him by proxy. But it turns out that ex-agents of the Saddam regime are only as odious as it pertains to settling scores in U.S. politics. For them to be associated with a totalitarian dictatorship is besides the point to reporters, and to Washington insiders.
Another alum of the Oil-for-Food scandal, Shakir al-Khafaji of Michigan, is also busy setting up security deals in Iraq, hiring a whole bunch of ex-FBI agents in his new company, Veritas Global.
It’s as if nothing’s happened. Saddam’s paid agents are being rehabilitated, and allowed to do business in Iraq. And no one seems to think that it’s that big of a scandal.
But it is.
UPDATE: And the plot thickens...
Guess who Jeffrey H. Smith (GC of VAGEC) also works for? Ambassador L. Paul Bremer, of CPA fame. Coincidence? From the Arnold & Porter LLP website:
Represents Ambassador L. Paul Bremer with respect to his service as Administrator of the Coalition Provisional Authority in Iraq, including testimony at Congressional hearingsOther fun fact, Smith also represented Martha Stewart. Allowing one's imagination to go wild, could she too be in on insider oil deals in Iraq? At this point, nothing surprises me about DC's incestuosness.
UPDATE 2: More onion peels, more names...
It seems that Vincent's VAGEC has been primarily fixing deals for UI Energy Corporation, a South Korean firm that does the bulk of its business in Iraqi-Kurdistan.
Virginia Global Energy Consultants, U.S.A, which has influence and experiences in the petroleum and natural gas exploration and development in Iraq, and Challenger Mineral Inc., which is a 100% subsidiary company of Global Santa Fe listed on the NYSE (New York Stock Exchange), are our global affiliated companies who are our partner to promote our energy development in the Middle East and North America.That would explain why Steve Solarz is on UI Energy's Board of Advisors (...he's probably the link to Turkish companies) as well as Peter Galbraith, who's chummy with the Kurdish leadership. Ken Adelman, who regretted his support for the Iraq War and began championing then candidate Barack Obama, is also on there.
This even involves former CENTCOM commander Gen. John Abizaid:
Congressman Stephen J. Solarz, the former Secretary of Defense U.S.A Mr. Frank C. Carlucci, the former ambassador to Egypt Mr. Nicholas A. Veliotes, and U.S. commander for the Middle East General John P. Abizaid, exercise their network and political influence to promote UI energy on the development of oil fields in Iraq where United States of America governs.But for me, the icing on the cake is the role of Anthony 'Tony' Lake. He's in on this too. Back in the day, when he was at the CIA, he was one of the staunchest enemies of the idea of democracy in Iraq. He also served as Obama's top foreign policy advisor during the campaign (...and is identified as so on UI Energy's website). Now he's one of many trying to make money off of Iraq, even if it involves middlemen such as Samir Vincent.
UPDATE (April 23, 2009): As one would have expected from people who have something to hide, all the pertinent details about VAGEC's offices and management has been scrubbed clean from their website. Luckily, I captured images of what the web pages looked like before the cover-up.