Defender Of Free Markets


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An internal Pentagon memo, for example, states that Afghanistan could become the “Saudi Arabia of lithium,” a key raw material in the manufacture of batteries for laptops and BlackBerrys.

The vast scale of Afghanistan’s mineral wealth was discovered by a small team of Pentagon officials and American geologists. The Afghan government and President Hamid Karzai were recently briefed, American officials said.

“This will become the backbone of the Afghan economy,” said Jalil Jumriany, an adviser to the Afghan minister of mines.

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WEST AFRICA has become an attractive trade route for Latin America’s cocaine smugglers in recent years. On June 8th two tonnes (2000kg) of the stuff (with an estimated street value of over $1 billion) were seized in the Gambia. While cocaine use in America has fallen by 50% over the last two decades, some European countries have seen consumption rates double or triple. Aided by its corruptible police and flimsy money-laundering laws, up to 150 tonnes of cocaine are estimated to pass through the region a year. In 2006 36% of the cocaine carriers caught in one network of European airports had come from west Africa. In 2008 this had dropped to 17%. Whether this reflects a drop in trade or the traffickers’ increasing skill in avoiding capture is unclear.

The new Casablanca: Why Dubai draws Iran, intrigue, and tusk smugglers

Indeed, with so many Iranians in Dubai, US consular officials here regularly pump that large pool for information or recruit them to spy, says Jim Krane, author of a recent book about Dubai.

Many countries have active intelligence operations here in this open and strategic spot, he says. “There are so many reasons to be in Dubai … business, tourism, and conferences, that it’s easy for spies to maintain ‘plausible deniability.’ ”

Israel’s Mossad is widely believed to have sent dozens of agents to Dubai to assassinate Mahmoud al-Mabhouh, the Hamas operative, though Dubai’s tough-talking police chief made clear that such a brazen attack was a step too far. After a quick and impressive investigation, his department secured international arrest warrants for some two dozen suspects from abroad.

Dubai has also drawn praise for its “swift and extensive” cooperation in cracking down on terrorism financing after the US Congress’s 9/11 com­mis­sion found that most of the funds for the 2001 attacks were funneled through the city. Suspected terrorism activity was “dealt with expeditiously” and punished, said the FATF.

As for the crackdown on illicit trade with Iran, it’s unclear how much the authorities are making a dent – particularly for state-backed companies. US officials say they may be fighting a long battle and that they hope to persuade Dubai to crack down harder or risk its international reputation.

Yet even if the emirate were to sacrifice its breezy business climate, illegal traders would just go elsewhere, says Prof. Jean-François Seznec at Georgetown University in Washington, a Gulf specialist.

Dubai follows a long line of entrepôts where smugglers and money launderers gather, he points out, arguing that “there’s always a market for this kind of free trade.”

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