The investigation into the high-profile case of whether the French company Lafarge has been sponsoring terrorist organizations in Syria may soon take a new, unexpected turn. You have probably heard about the investigation launched by the French courts in 2017 into charges filed by the local employees of a cement factory owned by the French company Lafarge who were targeted by militants (the plant was located in the Tell Abyad district of the Syrian province of Raqqa, 14 miles from the Syrian-Turkish border, its geographical coordinates: 36°32’42.0″N 38°35’06.0″E, see map).
With the outbreak of the Syrian conflict in 2011 and the weakening of the regime of Bashar al-Assad, the Kurds have gradually gained increasing influence over this part of Syrian Kurdistan. By mid-2012, the area was actually under the control of the US-backed Kurdish YPG militia, the military wing of the most powerful political organization in Syrian Kurdistan, the Democratic Union Party (PYD). At that time, given the deteriorating security situation, Lafarge’s French managers decided to evacuate all the plant’s expatriate staff from Syria, but forced local employees to remain to keep the factory running.
By the end of 2014, the area where the plant was located had become an epicenter of fierce battles between YPG forces and Daesh (Islamic State) militants. Despite the very real danger posed to the plant’s personnel and their repeated requests to be evacuated, the company’s management insisted in no uncertain terms that the work there continue:
Based on the internal correspondence of the security team for this Syrian factory headquartered in France, which has been posted on the Internet, Daesh militants showed up at the plant no earlier than late September 2014 (the evacuation decision, at any rate, was made on Sept. 18, 2014, which was before the militants arrived). And by mid-April 2015, the employees at the plant were documenting the damage that had been done during the Daesh occupation as well as the destruction that occurred after the region had been liberated by Kurdish forces:
In the emails that have been obtained, there is not the slightest mention of the fact that prior to September 2014 the plant had been making payments in some manner to protect itself from Daesh violence. Nor are there any proposals from the security team just before the region was occupied that suggest that the militants be bought off. And the fact that throughout the duration of the entire Syrian conflict, with the exception of a short interval between September 2014 and April 2015, the plant was under the control of the Kurdish militia, renders the official story — that from 2011-2014 Lafarge paid Daesh $15.2 million to ensure the safety of its facility — meaningless.
Satellite images of the site of the Lafarge factory, which were posted on terraserver.com in mid-2016, shed some light on the truth of what really happened, as they clearly show US Air Force combat and transport helicopters there:
At that time many alternative media outlets were publishing claims that a special-ops base had been constructed there by the coalition fighting against Daesh. There is no reliable information about exactly when this base was established, but it is known that the US began providing logistical and military support to the Kurdish forces near the town of Kobani (the Kurdish administrative center closest to the factory, near the Turkish border) no earlier than mid-2014. Prior to that, the Obama administration and the Pentagon were apparently not yet entirely sure which side to bet on — Daesh or the Kurdish militia — in the war against the Assad regime. It is logical to assume that the plant, which later became the operational base of the US military’s combat units, had previously been used as a cover for secret contacts with Islamists between 2011 and 2014. It is even more logical that it was the US decision in mid-2014 to finally place its bets on the Kurdish forces that prompted the capture of this territory by Daesh a few months later, in addition to the ravaging of the plant as an “act of retribution,” in anger over their dashed hopes of further covert support from US military and intelligence services.
Given these factors, the French investigation into the charges against the company’s former senior managers must inexorably lead to truthful answers to the following key questions:
– did the company’s security team have actual reasons for “buying off” Daesh from 2011 to 2014?
– What duties, in addition to directly ensuring the security of the company’s assets in Syria, were performed by Jean-Claude Veillard, a former military officer in the French special-ops forces, while he was deputy director of security at Lafarge?
– with whom did he meet in the summer of 2012 in the Kurdish city of Gaziantep (in southern Turkey) and on whose orders?
– were he or some of his underlings on the plant’s security team in contact with representatives of the Pentagon or other American forces in Syria?
– did some unknown persons of European appearance visit the site of the plant after the foreign personnel were evacuated in 2012?
– and finally, why was the initial internal investigation into the circumstances of the Lafarge case conducted in the spring of 2017, with the assistance of lawyers from the American firm Baker & McKenzie, which is known for its long-lasting ties to the CIA?