Sunday, October 08, 2006

Boca del Serpiente

Adnan Gulshair Muhammad el ShukrijumahLast month Riehl World View reported on the manhunt for an Al Qaeda operative and protégé of Khalid Shaikh Mohammed named Adnan Gulshair Muhammad el Shukrijumah. Described as “one of Al Qaeda’s most well-trained, intelligent and deadly operatives”, Shukrijumah is thought to be a key player in an attempt to smuggle a dirty bomb into the United States and detonate it. Shukrijumah is a native of Trinidad, and has recently visited there, leaving the FBI concerned about a possible “Trinidad connection” in the Al-Qaeda effort to carry out attacks in the USA.

Uncle Pavian is my contact for information on all things Trinidadian, so I emailed him to ask if he knew anything about Adnan Gulshair Muhammad el Shukrijumah. He didn’t, but promised to look into it and get back to me.
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He recently wrote back with a wealth of information about Trinidad and Tobago. He didn’t have much to say about Al Qaeda or even the local bad boy, Yasin Abu Bakr. Instead, here’s a fascinating look into Trinidad’s deteriorating political situation and its relationship to the Strutting Popinjay of Caracas:

Sorry about taking so long to get back with you. My original plan was to consult with my father, who returned from Trinidad about a month ago. Unfortunately, he was laid low while attending my nephew’s graduation from USMC boot camp and has been recovering from surgery.

We did get out to visit him and Mom at their home in the next county, but for some reason he goes all vague when we ask him about what’s going on in the Republic. We don’t think this is anything age-related, since he’s completely lucid on topics he wants to talk about; he just doesn’t have anything to say about Trinidad and Tobago.

So, I’ve tried to piece together a general assessment from what I know about the place and what Mom has been hearing from relatives on the ground.

First thing is, the consensus of opinion among financial adviser types is that the place is Bad News. This is because of the high crime rate, particularly the almost daily murders, the corrupt Manning administration, the proximity to Venezuela and the expectation of a major reordering of the Caribbean basin food chain after the inevitable demise of El Barbudo in Havana.

This has not stopped money from flowing into the country in a big way. Alcoa, the aluminum company, has two major production facilities under construction, and several new offshore natural gas fields are under development. Most of this money appears to have gone to finance the lifestyles of supporters of the governing People’s National Movement. The country’s voters are split almost evenly between those of African origin and those whose forebears came from the Indian subcontinent during the late 1800s. The Indians have a slight numerical majority, but internecine rivalries cost them their parliamentary majority two election cycles ago. There is some talk that Mr. Manning, the prime minister, may use the next election to declare himself President For Life in the manner of “Papa Doc” Duvalier of Haiti or Idi Amin Dada of Uganda.

I doubt that there is a significant relationship between Yasin Abu Bakr and Osama bin Laden or his people. My impression of Mr. Abu Bakr is that he wants personal power, not the spread of Islam. While his conversion may well have been sincere, what I know suggests that he is using his position as a spiritual leader to advance his own political ambitions, much in the manner of our own Fred W. Phelps, Jr. In other words, I think he is a fascist, but not necessarily an Islamo-fascist. He (or his organization, since last I heard he was still in jail) may very well be providing support to people who are part of the terror network, but he is unlikely to let his enmity with the elected government (or the United States) jeopardize his own position.

All that will change once Fidel Castro leaves the scene.

Mr. Manning’s policy of seeking friendly relations with Cuba and Venezuela is fueling the speculation about the future of constitutional government in the Republic, although much of the evidence seems based on racial prejudice. What will happen in a post-Castro world is any body’s guess. We know that President Hugo Chavez of Venezuela has been using his country’s oil wealth to prop up the Castro regime and to buy large quantities of weapons. We know also that al-Qaeda operatives are active in the region and may actually be receiving support from Mr. Chavez. Several years ago, Mr. Manning announced that the official language of the Republic would be changed to Spanish at some point in the future. Is there some kind of plan for absorbing Trinidad and Tobago into some kind of Venezuelan hegemony? Does Mr. Chavez have dreams of a pan-Caribbean union on the model of Moammar Khadaffy’s dreams of a pan-Arab state? Damfino.

Trinidad and TobagoWhat I can tell you is, like all dictators, Mr. Chavez needs an external enemy to stay in power. So far, the United States has served the purpose very well. But there may come a time when he feels the need to use his newly acquired arsenal and the lightly-defended Republic just across the Serpent’s Mouth would be a tempting target. At that point, there will be more cooperation between Venezuela and al-Qaeda, much as we’ve seen with Iran and pre-regime-change-Iraq. When that happens, I think it is unlikely that the Muslim fanatics of al-Qaeda will be too concerned about joining with a nominally Catholic dictator against the hated Great Satan of El Norté. So, the question I wonder about is, “Will the United States go to war with Venezuela over a couple of aluminum plants?”

Thank you, Uncle Pavian.

5 comments:

turn said...

Baron,

Recently a young woman of Indian descent from Trinidad has joined our sales team and, although she was raised in the U.S., she maintains contacts with family there. I'll carefully check with her on getting some additional information from her family sources, especially if any there are on the 'net.

To most of us, the political and islamist situation in T & T only rarely pops above the radar, so any information vetted and worth passing to you I'll happily forward.

I mainly visit Gates to get news and info on Europe but I'm very concerned about activity in this hemisphere as well. Most particularly in the Brazil/Uruguay/Argentina region that may be a looming threat. My understanding at this point is that they're actively recruiting locals and raising money by means of counterfeit intellectual property and drugs. I'll really get alarmed if/when I hear about arms traficking.

Please keep up the great work.

Baron Bodissey said...

Turn,

Thanks for your support. By all means, email me with info about T & T if you get it. Just make sure to tell me what I can post, and what I can't!

Donkatsu said...

T&T is by far the US' largest source of liquefied natural gas. We get about 65% of our LNG imports from T&T. LNG in turn supplies about 5% of total us narual demand. So, T&T provides a signficant element of our gas needs. However, the US supplies come mostly from international companies operating in T&T, not from a national gs or oil company, and these supplies carry long term contracts. So, any effort by T&T to break this supply chain would be catastrophic for the country in terms of its finances. LNG is not (yet) as fungivle as crude oil.

Donkatsu said...

corrected spelling:

T&T is by far the US' largest source of liquefied natural gas. We get about 65% of our LNG imports from T&T. LNG in turn supplies about 5% of total us narual demand. So, T&T provides a signficant element of our gas needs. However, the US supplies come mostly from international companies operating in T&T, not from a national gas or oil company, and these supplies carry long term contracts. So, any effort by T&T to break this supply chain would be catastrophic for the country in terms of its finances. LNG is not (yet) as fungible as crude oil.

Uncle Pavian said...

Absolutely right, donkatsu. Trouble is, dictators cannot be counted on to behave rationally, and there are two of them already at the party.
The Baron's and Dymphna's readers will need no reminder that the long-term contracts in Kuwait didn't count for much when Saddam's tanks rolled across the border.
So far as I know, President Chavez hasn't asserted any historical claim to Trinidad, but the prospect of Venezuelan hegemony (whether the model turns out to be the Anschluss or the blitzkrieg) in the region is pretty unsettling.