Lockerbie Bombing investigation

The Godfather of Terror: Monzer al Kasser & Lockerbie

Godfather of Terror - Prince of Marbella

First in this four-part investigatory sequel looking at the Lockerbie bombing

By Roger Cottrell, PhD

“For three years now, I’ve had a feeling that if Chuck (McKee) hadn’t been on that plane it wouldn’t have been bombed.”

  •  Bulah McKee to Rob Rowan in Time magazine, 2001.

“You know my reputation.  If you try to connect me in any way to the Lockerbie bombing it does exactly what it says on the tin.”

  •  Angolan War Criminal and Celebrity Mercenary, Dave Tomkins, in an e-mail to this author, 2015

A little over 30 years ago, on December 21, 1988, a bomb detonated onboard Pan Am 103, The Maid of the Seas, over Lockerbie in Southern Scotland.  In all, 243 passengers, mostly American, 16 crew and 11 people on the ground were killed.  It was and remains the worst act of mass murder in Scottish legal history.

Thirty years later, as the case against Abdelbaset al Megrahi, the deceased Libyan sanctions buster convicted of the bombing, collapses the question begs to be asked who really bombed the plane and why?

In the confusion that followed the bombing it was inevitable that false leads and speculation would take root.  Had the bombing been the work of Abu Nidal’s Fatah Revolutionary Council,  as suggested by the Helsinki warning of December 5, 1988?  Was Ahmed Jibril’s Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine – General Command, recently the target of a major bust in Germany, the culprit in the attack?  Were the terrorists acting unilaterally or on behalf of state actors?

Increasingly, two competing narratives began to assert themselves and gain traction.

In the first, and for whatever motive, two Libyan agents were accredited with bombing the plane.

In the second, more plausible but ultimately flawed scenario, the PFLP-GC were paid by the Iranian Revolutionary Guards or government to bomb Pan Am 103 in reprisal for the shooting down of Iran Airbus 655 on July 3, 1988.

Some sources, including for a while the Rome based Vincent Cannistraro and Paul Wilkinson of St Andrews College, Oxford, implied that both the Libyan and Iranian regimes might have been involved, working together.  However, after the FBI, fed false leads, followed an exclusively Libyan line of inquiry from 1991, Cannistraro abandoned his previous focus on Damascus and Tehran.  So, too, did his principle media contacts in Europe, including David Leppard on Rupert Murdoch’s Times.

Paul Wilkinson, and Mark Porter of The Express, however, continued to insist on an Iranian connection much later than this.  Then, to make matters even more confusing, sources such as former Civil Servant Patrick Hasseldine also brought South Africa’s Bureau of State Security (BOSS) into the mix.

Of the two main narratives, that involving the Libyan regime and its agents was always the least plausible.  However, it was deemed by Robert Mueller, then the FBI’s Head of Counter Terrorism, to be strong enough to indict (and later convict) Abdelbaset al Megrahi on at least nine counts of unsafe evidence by a Jury-less court at Camp Zeist, Holland, in 2001.

Much of this evidence was actually falsified.  This particularly included the phoney fragment of the Swiss bomb timer burned in a shirt that was quite obviously dumped at the crash site within hours of the plane being destroyed.

There have also been problems, however, with the main counter narrative that involves the PFLP-GC and the Iranian connection.  This is the narrative, nonetheless, that has been pretty much accepted as “given” by most of al Maghahi’s defence team, and witnesses, at Camp Zeist and indeed since.

The earlier, more meticulous investigations that tried to implicate the PFLP-GC, Damascus and Tehran, at least asked awkward questions about Mathew Kevin Gannon, Khaled Jaafer, Chuck McKee, an arms and drug dealer named Monzer al Kasser and the controlled drug shipments that were indeed passing through Frankfurt Airport at the time.  More recently, however, these lines in inquiry have been airbrushed from the narrative.

David Johnston of BBC Radio Firth, Israeli investigator Juval Aviv, DIA whistleblower Lester Coleman and Roy Rowan of Time magazine all came under various forms of official attack when they referred either to Chuck McKee or Monzer al Kasser.

The lobby journalists who had been briefed by then Transport Secretary Paul Channon, at the Garrick Club, London, in 1989, and who became prime movers in the documentaries that followed The Maltese Double Cross, were of a different calibre to Allan Frankovitch.   So, too, were the documentaries themselves, either on Al Jazeera or ZDF.  After the Iranian defector, Abolghassen Meshabi, the former Iranian Intelligence Chief in Europe, entered the mix, via his BKA handlers in Germany, the Iranian counter narrative on Lockerbie shifted its focus. 

Abolghassem Meshabi
Abolghassem Meshabi

In an earlier version of the script, elements of the 2000 strong contingent of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards at the Sheikh Abdullah Barracks in Lebanon indeed collaborated with the PFLP-GC to blow up American civil aircraft in the summer and autumn of 1988 in reprisal for Iran Airbus 655

In the new and much less plausible scenario the Iranian government was directly involved.   Here, PFLP-GC leader Ahmed Jabril is supposed to have walked directly into the Iranian embassy in Beirut, then travelled to Iran, and the Iranian government paid for the bombing directly through traceable sources within days of the bombing taking place.   In this scenario, the Iranian government all but arranged a press conference to announce its involvement in the bombing of Pan Am 103.  And yet, this scenario has formed the basis for at least one documentary on ZDF and two on Al Jazeera, both by lobby journalists briefed by Paul Channon at the Garrick Club.  Indeed, in Lockerbie: What Really Happened? Abolghassem Meshabi appears in person.

Iranian Airbus 655 – A plausible motive

The credible starting point for Meshabi’s narrative is the genuine fury, both of the Iranian regime and population, over the shooting down of Iranian Airbus 655 on July 3, 1988.  Two hundred and ninety people were killed in this reckless act of mass manslaughter by the Captain and crew of the USS VincennesThese included pilgrims to Mecca and 66 children.

The US President Elect George HW Bush,  a former Iran-Contra inside with corrupt links to the Saudi economic and political elite, had churlishly defended the action and exonerated Captain Rogers of the warship already known as “Robo cruiser.” 

Monzer Al Kasser - Godfather of Terror / Prince of Marbella
 Iran Air Airbus A300 same model as the aircraft in the flight 655 incident

Given the justified hatred of the Iranians, both for Britain and the US, for their role in bringing the murderous Shah Reza Khan to absolute power in 1953,  and in arming and backing his reign of terror, the shooting down of the airbus indeed ignited public rage in Iran to which the regime was compelled to respond.

This, however, was not the whole story.

The Sting

In fact, the bombing of Pan Am 103 was made possible by a CIA sting operation that had been in preparation for two years, in short, long before the shooting down of Iran Airbus 655.   This is not to say that the CIA bombed the plane as they almost certainly did not.  However, in order to understand how the bombing was even possible, one has to go back to the formation of the Counter Terrorism Committee of the CIA’s Directorate of Special Operations in 1986, in both Langley and London.

At the helm of the CTC was Iran Contra veteran Duane Clarridge and the group which was founded amidst controversial circumstances in the Middle East.  Clarridge did not order nor did the CTC initiate the circumstances that led to the bombing of Pan Am 103, The Maid of the Seas, as it banked and increased altitude over the Moray Firth on December 21, 1988.  However, due to a complex sting operation that led to the Operation Herbstlaub (Autumn Leaves) bust in Dusseldorf, Neuss, and throughout West Germany and Yugoslavia in October 1988, the CTC was inadvertently complicit in the biggest and worst act of mass murder in Scottish legal history that scattered bodies and other debris from the Carlisle to Glasgow Road to Tundergarth Church, two miles away.

The Counter Terrorism Committee – a Controversial Birth

The Counter Terrorism Centre was founded after a bungled CIA operation in Beirut, based on defective intelligence, led to the massacre of 80 Lebanese civilians in a a car bomb explosion in the Lebanese capital.  However, it also had an agenda, from the very outset, to link the regime of Mahmour Qaddafi operationally to terrorism in Europe, as an alleged proxy of the USSR.

The US administration and intelligence community, having previously been immersed in the scandal known as Iran Contra, was also increasingly concerned that Iran was now winning its war with Iraq, east of the Shatt-al-Arab and in the Gulf of Hormuz.  Indeed, with fall of the Fao Peninsula to Iranian forces in 1986, Langley and Washington were both scared that Iran would emerge from the conflict triumphant, and as the dominant power in the Persian Gulf.

This development was also viewed with alarm by Washington’s allies in Saudi Arabia and the Arab Gulf.

On April 15, 1986, Operation Eldorado Canyon failed in its objective to assassinate Colonel Mahmour Qaddafi of Libya and precipitate a military coup in Libya.  The coup was supposed to be backed up with an invasion from nearby Chad led by then CIA asset Khalifa Haftar, now Putin’s corrupt stooge in Tobruk.   In fact, as an important editorial in the New Statesman commented at the time, the Libyan airstrike out of the UK helped Qaddafi consolidate his regime and even boosted the dictator’s popularity among Libyans.

After the murder attempt and coup plot, in Libya failed, the CTC pursued a different line of attack.  The plan, now, was to draw both the Libyans and the 2000 strong contingent of Iranian Revolutionary Guards, based at the Sheikh Abdullah Barracks in Lebanon, into a retaliatory plot to bomb US civilian aircraft.  The idea was to foil the plot in the nick of time.

In a meeting set up by a prominent CTC asset, who’d been involved in Iran Contra from the outset, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine – General Command was to offer its services both to the Libyans and Iranian Revolutionary Guard, who had been conducting an independent foreign policy to the Iranian government since 1980.  Specifically, the PFLP-GC was to offer to blow up multiple US civilian aircraft out of Germany as direct reprisal for the Libyan airstrike.

 Dalkomoni – and Islamic Jihad

Led by Hafiz Dalkamoni, a true believing terrorist fiercely loyal to PFLP-GC leader, Ahmed Jibril, the European cell of the PFLP-GC was mostly concentrated in Dusseldorf, Neuss and throughout West Germany, as well as Sweden and Yugoslavia.

In Lebanon, however, at least since the US embassy bombing in Beirut in 1983, the PFLP-GC had been connected to the Iranian Revolutionary Guards through a “ghost organization,” Islamic Jihad, set up by Syrian arms and drug dealer Monzer al Kasser.  An asset of the CIA since the mid 1970s, and of the CTC since its inception in 1986, it was al Kasser who set up the meeting between representatives of Libyan Intelligence (GID), the Iranian Revolutionary Guard and PFLP-GC in a bakery in Malta.  The meeting was monitored by MOSSAD.  But who is al Kasser and how has he been so successfully airbrushed out of the subsequent Lockerbie story?

The Godfather of Terror

By the mid 1980s, Monzer al Kasser, subsequently known as “The Godfather of Terror” and “The Prince of Marbella,” was the biggest heroin [producer in the Beqaa Valley and also linked to various intelligence agencies.  But when he was first arrested in Copenhagen, in 1971, he was a relatively obscure and small time trafficker in cannabis and stolen cars, working with his brother Ghassam.

Monzer Al Kasser - Godfather of Terror / Prince of Marbella

A member of Syria’s minority Alouite community, three things made al Kasser of interest, initially to the Danish intelligence service, the PET.  The first of these was his powerful family connections in Syria itself.  The other two factors arose from important historical events that arose in the Middle East.  Prominent among these was the Black September Rising in Jordan, in late 1970 that arose from multiple plane hijackings to a place called Dawson Field.

From Dawson Field to Black September

Dawson Field was a former Royal Air Force airstrip in the Jordanian Desert which had fallen under control of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, led by George Habbash.  This is not to be confused with the PFLP-GC, led by Ahmed Jibril, which had split from Habbash’s organization in 1968.  After several civilian aircraft, in Europe, were hijacked and flown to the airfield in Jordan it was renamed Revolutionary Field by Habbash’s organization.

The PFLP were Marxists and had absolutely no interest in blowing up aircraft with civilians on board.  Rather, they used the hijackings to control the media message, releasing most of the hostages and treating the remainder relatively well.   However, while the demands of the hijackers were initially quite limited, mostly calling for the release of their incarcerated comrades, it eventually led to the attempted establishment of a Palestinian state entity inside Jordan.  This was the Black September Rising with which the modern history of the Middle East can be said to have violently been born.

With Leila Khaled jailed in Paddington Green in London, King Hussein of Jordan first asked Edward Heath to attack the insurgents with airstrikes.  When Heath refused, he turned to the Israelis instead.   In all, more than 400 000 Palestinians were killed and many more were forced to flee to Lebanon and Syria.  Some of the worst atrocities were committed by units commander by General Zhia al-Huq, future dictator of Pakistan and already an asset of the CIA.

Few Arab regimes were prepared to support the Black September Rising.  The Iraqi Ba’ath regime of al-Baqr, for example, kept its troops deployed in Iraq in barracks while  Egypt’s Gamal Abdul Nasser tried to negotiate a peace deal between King Hussein and the Palestinians.  Halfway through these negotiations, Nasser suffered a heart attack.

One Arab leader who did support the Rising, however, was Ahmed Jibril of Syria and it would also prove his undoing.

Jibril had been in power since 1966 but was now being challenged by his Minister of Defence, a former Air Force officer called Hafiz ‘Asad.  Asad, in turn, was derived from Syria’s minority Alouite community from Lakatia, in the North of the country, who had been (and remain) strongly represented in the military as a legacy of French colonialism.  The moment Jibril deployed troops and heavy armour in Jordon, in support of the Black September Rising, Asad refused to provide them with air cover and they were massacred. 

Shortly after the bloody suppression of the Black September Rising, Asad staged a military coup in Syria.  The murderous Asad dynasty has been in power ever since.

A Family Affair

What is important to remember, at this point, is that Monzer al Kasser was related to the Asad dynasty by marriage and that, within a year of the Syrian military coup, he was in prison on drug and car theft charges, where he was recruited by PET and Britain’s MI6.  On his release from prison he moved to Sloane Square London, where his luxurious apartment was a stone’s throw both from a South African BOSS safe house and the future headquarters of BCCI’s Black Unit.

Abu Nidal – Gun For Hire

By 1974, Monzer al Kasser was also connected to Sabbah Khalifa al Banna, otherwise known as Abu Nidal, leader of the Fatah Revolutionary Council.  A Palestinian renegade from a once privileged family (before the Nakba in 1948) Abu Nidal already had a price on his head for an attempted assassination of Yasir Arafat and Mohammed Abbas.

What happened next was interesting.  After Abu Nidal and his minions threw a grenade into a pharmacy near the Champs Elysees, also in 1974, blame for the attack was quickly shifted to the Venezuelan, Illych Ramirez, otherwise known as Carlos the Jackal.  Carlos, now in prison, still maintains his innocence to this day.  Shortly after this grenade attack, however, Abu Nidal was recruited by the CIA. 

Godfather of Terror - Prince of Marbella

Key to Abu Nidal’s recruitment was a German Neo Nazi and CIA asset called Willie Prohl, also known as Willie Vos, who had been recruited in prison and had been quartermaster to the notorious Munich massacre in 1972.

What we do know is that al Kasser had been recruited to the CIA by British former SAS gun runner Les Aspin and renegade CIA agent Robert Booth Nichols by the time that he masterminded the notorious Tel al Zaatar massacre in Lebanon in 1975.

Tel al Zaazar

In many ways, the Lebanese Revolution that began in 1975 was the precursor to the Arab spring several decades later.   At the centre of the revolutionary movement that challenged the corrupt Maronie Zu’ama running Lebanon’s gangster state was an alliance between Khaled Jumblatt’s Lebanese National Movement and the armed Palestinian presence in Lebanon, particularly including the PFLP.   The revolution, however, was short lived because the Syrian regime, under the guise of an Arab Defence Force, backed by the Arab League, invaded Lebanon and, in support of the Maronite regime, drowned the revolution in blood.  Justification for this action was secured by a resolution at an Arab League summit in 1974, pushed by Hafiz ‘Asad of Syria, in which the PLO were recognized as the sole representative of the Palestinian people so long as they promised not to intervene in the politics of other Arab countries.  Then as now, there was nothing that the autocrats of the Arab world feared more than a popular insurrection.

What Asad needed was to broker a deal with the Christian militias who had already carried out massacres in Sidon and Tyre.  The marriage broker, here, was al Kasser, working for Robert Booth Nichols and the CIA. The deal was consolidated in the Casino de Libre in the north of the city..  Thanks to al Kasser, the Syrian army was able to place a “ring of iron” around the refugee camp. In NE Beirut, consisting of Soviet built T-62 tanks.  Three Maronite militias, the Phallange, the Tigers and the Knights of Cedar, then moved into the camp with General Purpose Machine Guns mounted on flat bed trucks and the massacre began.  Most killed were women, children and the elderly as the PFLP fighters had long escaped through the storm drains under Beirut.

BCCI

Tel al Zaatar was a bloody precursor for more recent massacres of Palestinians, by Syrian backed forces, who included the PFLP-GC in 2012 as well as the “kill box” strategy, backed by Putin, currently deployed by the Syrian regime against its own population.   However, it also established al Kasser as the leading heroin producer in the Beqa’a Valley, backed by the Syrian military presence (who secured a cut) operated under the guise of an Arab Deterrent Force.

It also brought al Kasser into his business relationship with the Jaafar drug clan, also in the Beqa’a.

In particular, the blood spilt at Tel al Zaazar in 1975 consolidated his connection with the very Christian militias who had carried out the deed.  These, in turn, controlled the ports through which drugs were smuggled to Nicosia, Cyprus, then on to Frankfurt.  From here they were smuggled by air into the US, via Detroit.

However, with the neo-cons in the ascendant in the CIA, under George HW Bush, Robert Booth Nichols and Langley also needed a new “covert fund” to replace the Nugen-Hand Bank.  The purpose of this covert fund was to bankroll deniable operations using drug revenues, beyond the remit of Congressional Oversight, which would not have been approved by the then government of Jimmy Carter.   That covert fund was to be BCCI’s “Black Unit” and it was set up in London, a stone’s throw from al Kasser’s residence in Sloane Square, by his brother Ghassan.

These covert operations included the manipulation of Abu Nidal’s group, to try and destabilize EU recognition of the PLO and the drug funded Operation Cyclone in Afghanistan.    In both cases, al Kasser used drug revenues to finance Warsaw Pact armaments from the Polish arms company, Cenzin.

However, it was events in Nicaragua and Iran that would provide al Kasser with his greatest business opportunity yet.

October Surprise

In February 1979 a wave of political strikes, throughout the Iranian oilfields, led to the overthrow of the hated and despotic Shah of Iran.  However, the Iranian Left, dominated by the Stalinist Tudeh Party, was completely paralysed and this enabled the mullahs – with their links to the bazaar merchant petty-bourgeoisie – to hijack the revolution.  Assisted by CIA Director George HW Bush and his heir apparent, William Casey, the Ayatollah Khomeini returned from Paris to Tehran.

At this time, as in Afghanistan, the CIA and MI6 were more concerned about the Left than what they would later call Islamic Fundamentalism   On November 6, 1979, however, they received a wake-up call.  The storming of the US embassy in Tehran and incarceration of 52 hostages for 444 days began as a relatively spontaneous action by Iranian students.  However, the Revolutionary Guards were in on the act from the very start and they had an agenda of their own.

The events that followed the storming of the US embassy in Tehran conformed to a pattern that was subsequently to recreate itself in the country.  For a start, while the mullahs and their regime railed against US Imperialism most of their repressive energies were directed against the left.  On the one hand the US embassy hostages may well have lost their liberty but it was Iranian Trotskyists who went to the firing squad.  What is also often forgotten is just how fragile the new Iranian regime was before Saddam Hussein invaded the country in September 1979.

The Godfather of Terror

As for the Iranian Revolutionary Guards, they not only had their own agenda but were also now conducting their own foreign policy, independent of and often at odds with the fragile Iranian government.  As an example, in 1980, members of the Iranian government were hosted by the Sandinistas, in Nicaragua, in an act of solidarity against US Imperialism.  This was viewed with alarm by, among others, Ronald Reagan.  The Iranian Revolutionary Guards, however, had very different ideas.

In a secret meeting in Paris, the security for which was arranged by Oswald le Winter, a Deep State cabal committed to the removal of Jimmy Carter met not with representatives of the Iranian government but with the Iranian Revolutionary Guards.  The delegation, on the American side, consisted of the men who would actually make US Foreign Policy over the next eight years while Reagan, a former Hollywood actor with Mafia connections, shambled clueless in front of the TV screens.   

The group that met in Paris included CIA Director George HW Bush, soon to be Vice President and his CIA protégé William Casey.  It also included Duane Clarridge, the future head of the Counter Terrorism Committee in Langley and London.

As part of the deal secured that day the Iranian Revolutionary Guards agreed not to release the US hostages until after Jimmy Carter lost the US Presidential election.  For this, the Iranian Revolutionary Guards were paid  $30 million ion laundered Cali Cartel Cocaine revenues delivered from the Cabazon Native American Reservation in California by British former SAS gun runner Les Aspin.

The American team that assembled in Paris would later form the basis for Reagan’s Transitional Team, heded by Edwin Meese, the future Attorney General.   Meese would later be notorious for shredding Iran Contra documents ahead of both the Tower and John Kerry Commissions.  In the period 1980-1981 Meese and the team that met in Paris arranged to sell TOW missiles to the Iranians using fake Israeli end user certificates provided by MOSSAD agent Rafi Eitan. 

After the Iran Contra conspirators were pardoned by George HW Bush as President, Meese became part of as Right wing think tank known as the Heritage Foundation.  He is the only person to have been involved in the election campaigns both of Ronald Reagan and Donald Trump.

Rafi Eitan, despite his more glamorous profile as the man who extracted Adolf Eichman from Lain America, was a war criminal in his own right from the Nakba, which established the state of Israel through ethnic cleansing in 1948.  He had also tortured and murdered Egyptian prisoners during the Suez War of 1956 and once compared Palestinians to cockroaches aimlessly crawling in a bottle.

In 1980, Rafi Eitan already had strong and highly dubious connections in Latin America, having subcontracted CIA support for various Right Wing death squads in Guatemala, El Salvador and other Latin American countries.  Ironically, using the fake persona of Dr Ben Orr, Eitan also stole the PROMIS computer software that was later developed by Wackenhut on the Cabazon Native American reservation and then by Cambridge Analytica.   This was the same PROMIS software that Robert Maxwell sold to corrupt KGB and which was used to steal $58 billion from a loan to the then USSR.  Most grotesque of all Eitan, who was described as a millionaire computer entrepreneur in his obituaries in the Israeli press, was an open supporter of the Putin backed Alternative for Germany before his death.   

Unfortunately for the October Surprise conspirators, their plans to sell US weapons to the Iranians using Israeli end user certificates came to an abrupt end when a plane from Argentina crashed in the Soviet Union in 1981.  The crash may well have been an accident for all that Monzer al Kasser would later be linked to false flag terrorism in Argentina, again accredited to “Islamic Jihad,” while Rafi Eitan had close connections to the fascist Right in the country

John Banks

The evidence linking al Kasser to the October Surprise meeting in Paris is circumstantial but compelling.  British mercenary recruiter John Banks, a notorious war criminal from Angola, was by his own admission present and complicit in arranging the Tel al Zaatar massacre in Lebanon in 1975.  He was also, by his own admission, involved in a bungled plot to assassinate both Lela Khaled and Carlos the Jackal, during an operation to film members of the IRA training at a Palestinian camp at Nabatea, for his Special Branch handler Ray Tucker at Scotland Yard.  After Banks absconded from prison in Britain in 1980, it seems with Tucker’s help, he was safe housed in Paris’ Latin Quarter by associates of al Kasser, which means that Banks was actually in Paris when October Surprise took place.  His claim that he was working for British and French Intelligence, helping to prevent the assassination of Gilcrest Olympia, the exiled President of Togo, never really rang true for all that the assassination plot is fictionalized in Robert Ludlum’s The Bourne Memorandum.

Banks’s confederate and fellow former war criminal from Angola, David Tomkins, had previously been involved in a military coup plot in Togo.  A former safe cracker turned explosives expert, David Tomkins was later al Kasser’s bodyguard and confidante in Spain when Banks and Les Aspin worked for al Kasser in Operation Black Eagel (see below\).  In 1980, it was Aspin who delivered the $30 million in laundered drug revenues to the Revolutionary Guards, courtesy of al Kasser’s criminal contacts in the Columbian  Cali Cartel, that had been laundered through the Cabazon Casino owned by the Gambino Mafia Family in California.  Apart from anything else, al Kasser had links to French Intelligence and must have known that the October Surprise meeting was taking place.

Indeed, it may be salient that most of al Kasser’s criminal connections remain concentrated in Paris, and in its Lebanese and Syrian communities, to this day.   These include Rifaat Asad, who is al Kasser’s brother in law and uncle to Syria’s current dictator.  They also include Joseph Saba, a Lebanese Armenian criminal with close links to the Liberian Maraka and also (until very recently) the timeshare money laundering operation run by John “Goldfinger” Palmer in Tenerife.

In 1980 and 1981 a number of railway bombings in France were falsely accredited to Carlos the Jackal.  Once again, the actual culprit was more likely to have been Abu Nidal, for whom al Kasser now served as CIA handler through BCCI’s “black unit” in Sloane Square, London.   Meanwhile, al Kasser was also linked to the GAL death squad program operated by Spanish intelligence, in collusion with the French, whereby renegade Arab Terrorists in the PFLP-GC were used to murder Basque dissidents in France.  This would be salient to al Kasser’s subsequent involvement in the Lockerbie bombing and former members of the GAL program were later involved in the Madrid train station bombing in 2004.

The Russian Tampov Mafia, linked both to al Kasser and Vladimir Putin, also use assassins based in the Canary Islands e.g. to murder Boris Berezovsky and Scot Young in the UK, although these are widely believed to be Bulgarians, not Arabs. Sadly, The Guardian doesn’t call Spain the United Nations of crime for nothing.

 The Brother’s Coup

In 1984 Mozer al Kasser was deported from the UK because of his involvement in a military coup plot in Syria.  The coup plot was supported by the CIA and Bandar bin Sultan of Saudi Arabian Intelligence and had, as it’s objective, the installation of al Kasser’s brother in law, Rifaat Asad, as Syrian dictator in place of his Moscow supported brother.  At the time, Hafiz Asad had just further consolidated his relationship with the Andropov regime in the USSR and secured agreement from Andropov to sell on surplus Soviet weapons to Iran in its war with Iraq.

Part of al Kasser’s criminal empire, Rifaat Asad had founded and led the notorious Defence Brigades in Syria, similar to Saddam Hussein’s Revolutionary Guards and was particularly notorious for his role in the Hama massacre of 1980.  The coup plot, which was actually quite badly formulated, was hatched once more in the Casino de Libre in Northern Beirut, where the Tel al Zaatar massacre had been planned some years before.

Monzer al Kasser was immediately allowed to set up residence in Spain, where he was already involved in setting up and running the GAL death squad program against ETA activists in France.   Incredibly, al Kasser would have the armed protection of Spanish Intelligence, at his palatial home in Puerto Banus, Marbella, when he plotted the Achille Lauro hijack as a false flag operation for MOSSAD in 1985.

Cyrus Hashemi and Adnan Karshoggi

Monzer al Kasser was not involved in the original US arms shipments to Iran, that were set up on the back of the October Surprise deal in Paris, in 1980 although, with his criminal and intelligence contacts in the French capital, it’s unlikely that he didn’t know about the deal.

The key players in the original arms deal were the Iranian arms dealer, Cyrus Hashemi and the debauched Saudi Arabian playboy, Adnan Karshoggi, who was also the brother in law of Mohammed al Fayed.  In the following years, al Kasser and Karshoggi would become close confederates, much to the chagrin of Hashemi, to whom we will return later.

Operation Black Eagle

In 1982, John Banks was released from prison in the UK.  He had served an extra 55 days remission for having absconded during most of his sentence, for extortion, and as we have seen spent most of his time in Paris, being safe housed by associates of al Kasser, his future paymaster in Iran Contra.  Banks’ claims to have assassinated the former Nicaraguan dictator, Samoza, for Frank Sturgis of the CIA, in Ascension, Paraguay, are almost certainly false although Banks did know Sturgis from Angola, post the latter’s involvement in Watergate, and Sturgis did confide in Banks as to his connection with the John F. Kennedy assassination.  It’s also unlikely that Banks was involved in Mike Hoare’s bungled coup plot in the Seychelles, while he was on the run, as Dave Tomkins claims in his book, Dirty Conflict, that Banks has never seen actual military combat in his life.  Banks did know “Darkie” Davidson, formerly of the SAS, and Phillip Sasserago, however, both of whom were involved in Mike Hoare’s coup plot prior to Operation Cyclone in Afghanistan, and if Banks indeed helped scupper the assassination plot against Gilcrest Olympia this might explain his early release from prison in the UK.

The circumstances of Banks’ conviction for extortion, in 1979, are interesting and touched upon in an interesting article on the pre-corporate British mercenary scene in Lobster magazine.  In 1979, when the Sandanistas had been waging a guerrilla war against Samoza’s dictatorship for years, a popular liberal newspaper editor was murdered in Managua and the opposition to the regime suddenly became a mass movement.  Aware that Samoza was living on borrowed time the CIA elected to arrange his assassination before the Sandanistas swept to victory and, according to Banks, it was Frank Sturgis who approached Banks to arrange the deed.  Unfortunately for Banks, and according to what he told me in his flat in Lincolnshire, the mercenaries absconded with the money.  This is to say that following the debacle and fiasco with John Stockwell’s CIA Angola Task Force, this was the second time that Banks had lost a great deal of money belonging to the CIA.  What happened next  was almost comic in that Banks turned up at the Nicaraguan embassy saying that he had knowledge of a plot to assassinate Samoza (which he had actually set up) demanding money for details of the plot and the names of the mercenaries involved.  However, the embassy staff had already gone over to the side of the Sandanistas, promptly phoned the police, and Banks was duly charged with extortion.  This time, even his Special Branch handler, Ray Tucker, couldn’t save him and he was sent down.  That said, it seems to have been Tucker who helped Banks abscond from prison and escape to Paris, where someone must have arranged for him to be safe housed.

Now, in 1982, it was Tucker who picked Banks up outside his prison and drove him directly to the US embassy in London, for an appointment with the CIA head of station, William Mott.  The Falklands war had just ended and Thatcher was about to be re-elected on a wave of near fascist patriotic euphoria.  In reality, Thatcher couldn’t have won the conflict, which was cynically choreographed following the sinking of the Belgrano, without the CIA in Pinochet’s Chile, and now the CIA wanted something in return.  Indeed, it’s a little known fact that Iran Contra began, and was mostly based, in London, in order to evade Congressional oversight following the Boal Ruling and, in 1982, John Banks was recruited to Operation Black Eagle accordingly.

John Banks was not involved in the operational arm of Operation Black Eagle, as admirably described in an article in Rolling Stone in 1988.  In fact, as Nick Davies of The Guardian pointed out, together with Phil Miller in an important recent book, this task fell to David Walker’s KMS, the first of Britain’s corporate mercenary armies founded in 1975.  This prototype for Sandlines and Aegis, that would flourish post the Falklands on Margaret Thatcher’s watch, would later be involved in war crimes and atrocities across the planet.  Significantly, many of the former SAS who participated e.g. in the blowing up of Managua Harbour by KMS, were veterans of the 1980 Iranian embassy siege, including Darkie Davidson, who had been ordered to summarily execute the Arabstani hostage takers in London in 1980 by Margaret Thatcher in person.

John Banks’ actual role in relation to Operation Black Eagle was more akin to his earlier role as part of John Stockwell’s CIA Angola Task Force, before Banks’ even more scurrilous role in the massacre at Tel al Zaatar described above.  Indeed, Banks’ immediate employer in the operation was not to be the CIA, who set the deal up, but Monzer al Kasser, who was to supply arms to the Contra Northern Command in Honduras, thus evading Congressional Oversight in the US.  Once again, the arms would be supplied using Israeli end user certificates that were once more furnished by Rafi Eitan.             

The arms were shipped into Honduras onboard planes owned by SETCO airlines, owned by individuals linked to the Columbian Cali and Mexican Guadalajara cocaine cartels.  Indeed, the same planes that flew the planes in flew drugs out.  As direct employees of Monzer al Kasser, rather than the CIA itself, both Les Aspin and John Banks, whose association dated from Angola and Tel al Zaatar, were paid a stipend based on drug revenues, paid from a BCCI account controlled by Oliver North himself.  For all that John Banks is not the most reliable of sources this much is also confirmed by Les Aspin’s own Iran Contra affidavit in 1987 and in an important article by Patrick Radden Keefe in The New Yorker in 2010.

William Buckley – The Spy Who Never Came in From the Cold

After the 55 year old head of CIA station in Beirut, William Buckley, was kidnapped on June 3, 1984, the arms sales to the Contras in Honduras were complimented by those to Iran.  This time, Monzar al Kasser was directly involved, with Adnan Karshoggi and Cyrus Hashemi was cut out of the loop.

Much like the US embassy bombing in Beirut on April 19, 1983, which the CIA website still describes as the most serious attack on the Agency in its history, the abduction, torture and murder of Buckley was falsely accredited to Hezbollah, using the name de guerre of Islamic Jihad.   In particular, both terrorist incidents were falsely accredited to a cleric called Sheikh Mohammed Hussein Kadladdah.  Not surprisingly, the source of this bogus information was Monzer al Kasser.

Indeed, even the prestigious Middle East Report confirms that Islamic Jihad never actually existed.  Rather, it was a “ghost organization,” created by al Kasser, that brought together elements of the 2000 Iranian Revolutionary Guards based at the Sheokh Abdullah Barracks in Lebanon with the highly secular Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine – General Command.

FIDCO

A month prior to the US embassy bombing, in March 1983, the First International Development Corporation (FIDCO) was set up in California by rogue CIA agent Robert Booth Nichols.  Other members of the company board were drawn from Nichols cronies in Wackenhut and the company was immediately welcomed into Lebanon by President Amin Jermayaal. 

Nominally, FIDCO was set up to court investment in Lebanon’s redevelopment after the civil war but not a dime was invested in this way.  Rather, it was a money laundering operation that serviced al Kasser (now the biggest heroin producer in the Beqa’a) and his allies in the Cali Cocain Cartel, as well as al Kasser’s counterfeiting operation also based in the Beqa’a.  All of these revenues were further laundered through the Arab Bank in Amman.  Some of this money went to the Nicaraguan Contras.

As well as the abduction of two Americans in Beirut it seems that William Buckley was investigating FIDCO.  He was also investigating al Kasser’s role in the US embassy bombing on April 18, 1983, when he was abducted, tortured and murdered on instruction from al Kasser.

The first of the renewed arms shipments to Iran, that were arranged by al Kasser and Adnan Karshoggi, were supposedly part of a hostage negotiation to get Buckley released.  Once again, the fake Israeli end users were provided by Rafi Eitan, whose involvement gets even murkier at this point.  At the time, Eitan was running two agents in the US by name of the Pollards.  However, when the Pollards discovered that US arms were being illegally shipped from the US to Iran they tried to warn the FBI.  Eitan responded by burning the Pollards as assets and they were sent down on espionage charges accordingly.  Meanwhile, Oliver North arranged the first arms shipment to Iran, even though he knew that Buckley was already dead, and this led to still further abductions of foreigners in Beirut, arranged by al Kasser, to facilitate further arms sales.

Buckley’s Kidnap – the Official Narrative

According to the official narrative, Buckley was incredibly lax as regards his personal security and this enabled his kidnap, in broad daylight, in close proximity both to his home and the heavily fortified US embassy complex in Beirut.  Also according to the official narrative, Buckley’s security was compromised when he was lured into a honey trap by a woman.  In the event that Islamic Jihad actually existed, or that Hezbollah were directly involved, where would an Islamic Fundamentalist group find a woman prepared to have sex with Buckley, in order to lure him in this way?

More likely, the circumstances of Buckley’s abduction suggest inside information – as well as an inside job.

The Brothers Coup Revisited

Meanwhile, there had been other developments in the region, prior to Buckley’s abduction and murder, and the veritable assembly line of kidnappings that would be arranged by al Kasser, and to which this led.

In 1984 a coup plot was hatched at Beirut’s Casino de Libre, to replace Hafiz Asad with his brother Rifaat, the notorious war criminal from Hama in 1980, who was also al Kasser’s brother in law and criminal associate.  The prime mover in the plot, according to Patrick Seale, was Bandar bin Sultan of Saudi Arabian Intelligence who was a playboy associate both of Rifaat and Adnan Karshoggi.  However, the CIA were also drawn into the coup after Hafiz ‘Asad further consolidated his links to the Andropov regime in the USSR and started selling his surplus Soviet weapons to the Iranians.  Perhaps ironically, and as revealed by Aarons and Loftus, both Les Aspin and William Buckley had been closely linked to Bandar bin Salman in 1979, in Jeddah, where they stormed a mosque in response to a terrorist incident in the Kingdom.

What is curious, however, is that Monzer al Kasser, who also became involved in the coup plot, chose John Banks of all people to recruit mercenaries for the operation, most of whom were “Angolan rejects” such as Dave Roe and the Glasgow Nazi Alex Lennox along with other usual suspects from Banks’ habitually failed mercenary operations.  Certainly, corporate mercenary outfits like KMS who had actual SAS veterans on their books wanted no part in the operation and this suggests to me that al Kasser actually wanted the operation to fail. 

There is also anecdotal evidence to support this claim in that al Kasser’s key CIA contact, Robert Booth Nichols, and Rafi Eitan, were already selling a version of the PROMIS software stolen by Eitan in 1983 to a cabal of corrupt KGB using Robert Maxwell as a go between.  This indeed, was the beginning of al Kasser’s association with the Tampov Mafia in Moscow, and thus with Vladimir Putin, which was very much contingent on Hafiz Asad staying in power.  Moreover, once the coup plot ended in catastrophe (causing MI6 to burn al Kasser as an asset and the British to deport him) a deeply humiliated CIA and Deputy President George HW Bush were forced to make an important and highly sinister concession to the Syrian regime.  Prior to the failed coup plot in Syria, in 1984, al Kasser was already kidnapping western hostages to order to facilitate arms sales to Iran.  After the coup plot, and as Lester Coleman was to reveal, al Kasser was arranging controlled drug shipments into the US, with the collusion of the DEA Station in Nicosia, in which the Syrian regime now had a direct cut, in exchange for the Damascus regime’s supposed role in hostage negotiations in Lebanon.

This may explain why Rifaat Asad continued to be employed by his brother, to run the regime’s stake in the drug operation in the Beqa’a Valley, in an arrangement that also involved the Jaafar drug clan, Monzer al Kasser and FIDCO.  Decades later, when Monzar al Kasser was in prison in the US and Rifaat was running his criminal empire for him in Paris, he was still laundering money for Putin’s ally, Bashir Asad, during the current atrocity exhibition in Syria, according to French prosecutors.

Cyrus Hashemi – and the Brothers Aspin

By late 1984, Monzar al Kasser was firmly embedded in arms shipments to Iran, together with his next door neighbor in Puerto Banus, Adnan Karshoggi.  He was also arranging the kidnap of western hostages to order, in Beirut, by the ghost organization known as Islamic Jihad, to facilitate said arms sales as well as the controlled heroin shipments to the US, courtesy of the compromised DEA station in Nicosia and through Frankfurt Airport.

One person who was absolutely enraged by all of this was Karshoggi’s former business partner, in the original arms deal set up through October Surprise, Cyrus Hashemi.  It was as a result of this that Hashemi started working as an informant for Customs, against the Iran Contra conspirators, until his own suspicious death in 1986.  What is interesting, and as John Ashton and Ian Ferguson point out, is that Hashemi’s handler at Customs was none other than Michael Aspin, the brother of Les Aspin, who was now also deeply embedded in al Kasser’s criminal operation.

It is at this point that Les Aspin’s own role becomes more ambiguous and complex.  In 1985, for example, Aspin led a group of Christian Militia cut throats in a reprisal attack for the US embassy bombing and murder of William Buckley.  As we have seen, al Kasser had already framed Sheikh Mohammed Hussein Kadladdah for these terrorist atrocities for which he, himself, was actually responsible.  In the resultant car bomb attack in Beirut 80 civilians were killed.

Sheikh Kadladdah himself survived the attack and was later proven to have absolutely no connection to terrorism

Les Aspin had trained with William Buckley at Fort Bragg and served with him both on counter terrorism operations in Saudi Arabia, as well as during Operation Cyclone in Afghanistan.  Their brief there, according to both John Banks and Philip Sassarago (the latter writing as Tom Carew) was to shoot down Soviet MT-49 helicopter gunships and recover their flight decks for analysis by the American DIA.   How would Aspin react, one asks, if he discovered both that his current employer had arranged Buckley’s abduction, torture and murder, not to mention the bombing of the US embassy, and involved Aspin personally in the murder of 80 Lebanese to cover his tracks? 

Something else that may have enraged Aspin was when, on instruction from al Kasser, the CIA veteran Felix Rodriguez arranged the abduction, torture and murder of DEA agent Kiki Camerena in Guadalajara in Mexico.  This was almost a carbon copy of what happened to Buckley in Beirut, in that Camerena was administered with amphetamines to keep him conscious during torture.  This time, corrupt cops and politicians were directly involved but the DEA investigator leading the subsequent inquiry, remains adamant that Rodriguez (a close associate of Frank Sturgis) wielded the crowbar that delivered the killer blow,  According to Oswald Le Winter, who also kept Che Guevara’s bloodstained poncho as a macabre trophy, Rodriguez used Che’s watch as a paperweight and entertained his guests, who would have included John Banks, with tapes of Guevara being tortured.

By now, Operation Black Eagle and the Contra Northern Command, based in Honduras, had been shut down.  This followed the live capture of a US mercenary pilot, in Nicaragua, as described in an important book by Leslie Cockburn, and the parading of said pilot on Nicaraguan TV.  In addition, Lester Coleman reveals that he leaked details of Iran Contra that were duly published in an Arabic language paper in Beirut called Al Sharaa.

The new operation, involving the Contra Southern Command, was based at John Hull’s ranch in Costa Rica and involved much larger quantities of drugs that were flown directly into the US via the air force base in Fort Lauderdale in Florida.  The Southern Command, on instruction from Oliver North, also planned a false flag bombing of the US embassy in Costa Rica, which never actually happened, and an attempted assassination attempt against Eden Patsora which did.  In his important book, The Dark Alliance, Gary Webb revealed how the cocaine, shipped to San Francisco, was cooked as crack and sold, on behalf of the CIA, on the streets of Los Angeles.

Integral to the above arrangement a major arms shipment was arranged, from the UK to the Contra Southern Command, onboard a vessel called The Southern Seas.  This was to depart from Southampton Docks, with John Banks on board, but not before Rodriguez had tortured Kiki Camerena and told al Kasser everything that he knew.  This renders particularly grotesque, Banks’ claim to have been a DEA agent and to have been a close personal friend of Kiki Camerana, whom one assumes he never met.  No sooner had the vessel set sail, however, and as reported in The Observer at the time, then it was seized by French Customs, no doubt on a tip off from Les Aspin.  Due to the intervention of Ray Tucker, Banks was later (and very quietly) released by the authorities, but not before questions about Britain’s involvement in Iran Contra were finally raised in the House of Commons by a young Islington MP called Jeremy Corbyn.

And meanwhile, what with a whole arms shipment to the Contras being seized, al Kasser faced fresh problems with the arrival of Chuck McKee in Lebanon.

END OF PART ONE  

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