Two Flawed Triumvirates Seek to Undermine Western Europe

Ultra Liberals Disguised as Capitalists

On one hand, we observe Obama peddling a socialist manifesto ignoring the reality of global sectarianism, energy imperialism and economic warfare while pretending to push a capitalist agenda to disguise his ultra-liberal policies. Obama’s arguments that he supports capitalism and democracy (the rule of the majority) are reductio ad absurdum if one accepts that capitalism is engineered for inequality and fails to function if it is expected to operate alongside a belief that within a system that rewards risk, innovation and merit that all people can be equal and all opinions accommodated. On his flanks are Merkel in Germany and the South American liberation theologian in the Vatican.

These three are not overtly aligned but each with a significant power base and influence are pushing the same concepts – all of which are detrimental to Western interests and influence and the ultimate outcome of whose policies, if allowed to succeed, can only place the West at the mercy of more martial and aggressive regimes.

Weakness Masquerading as Strength

Human nature does not change quickly – these alleged students of the human condition wish us to take a path that will only result in our demotion globally to mere slaves of external events and concepts, rather than masters of our destiny. It puts us on a path of inevitable identity and cultural destruction.

Our opponents do not struggle with such issues. They hold a set of beliefs which they pursue relentlessly with a vigour that leaves no room for dissent. How can one be expected to accept a compromised position that weakens our ability to defend our beliefs in the face of such ideologues and fanaticism.

On the other hand Obama et al. – like all of their persuasion – seek to rule by the consensus of the lowest common denominator. This results in the usual liberal conundrum – perpetual inaction or at the very least confused, misguided and misdirected action – generally too late to influence events.

The “Might is Right” Misfits 

The opposing trio, led in theory by the bully boy Putin cosy in his arrangements with Hassan Rouhani (Iran) and Xi Jinping (China), are resolutely opposed to a progressive agenda and firmly united in their anti-American sentiment. They possess a clear set of focussed short term objectives that play to all the basic human emotions – nationalism, aggression and a clearly identifiable common enemy to unite against – in this case two – ISIS a form of radical Islam (I do not denote it as “the” form of radical Islam as Iran is the Sh’ia version of the ISIS Sunni form) and of course the USA.

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The former are offering a loose set of vague promises of future peace, prosperity and universal brotherhood based on complete sacrifice by the most powerful and the most comfortable nations – financially and politically – all the while eroding the cultural identities and traditional values of those constituencies they allegedly represent.

The real power lies in the “Might is Right” alliance and it is that challenge that needs to be addressed by the next US administration, the Conservatives in the UK and the other realistic member states of the EU and Eastern Europe.

The Political Landscape in the West

Obama and the Democrats have 14 months left in office before a generation in the political wilderness. Merkel is riding a wave of nauseating self-applause regarding her disastrous refugee policies and in the spirit of classic Teutonic arrogance continues to use the very federal institutions that were created in the EU to protect against historical German aggression and bullying to push the German agenda and harass the weaker EU nations.

When the UK inevitably decides that enough is enough and leaves the EU it will create at last a second lever of power in Western Europe. The path is clear for the Conservatives to take the initiative on this long held wisdom as the only viable opposition – the Labour Party – is now led by the divisive Corbyn, a figure of contempt for many in his own party, a thinly disguised Marxist and terrorist apologist.

Papal Hand-Wringing Hides Classic Self-Interest

Pope Francis is simply a sideshow to fill a few minutes at the end of the news segments with his appeals that are attractive to the billions of Catholics in developing South America, Asia and Africa. The Catholic church having lost its foothold in its traditional power base after decades of financial and sexual abuse scandals must now do what it does best – pretend to champion the poor in order to maintain its relevance and more importantly its coffers.

Whether the Pope realises it or not, his rhetoric is only a tool to keep the institution relevant to its current flock of poverty stricken less educated members and contributors to whom religion is always a salve in their world with few comforts or allies.

Pathetic Justification of Obama’s Foreign Policy Free-Fall

Yesterday Obama delivered a “why can’t we all just get along” plea at the United Nations General Assembly in the spirit of the most self-deluded, self indulgent, unrealistic antics of the 60s “love and peace to all men, women and the gender neutral” movement. Obama imposed forty minutes of nonsensical rationalisation for inaction and justification, informed by hindsight, for the train wreck that is his administrations foreign policy outcomes.

He sees a world of “equals” albeit that some will be more “equal” than others. A world where a centrally based well armed unelected power – the United Nations – will “implement” policy at a global level despite its failure to do so on umpteen occasions in the past and without an awareness apparently of the veto that his main opponents possess at that forum.

Perpetual Flux & Cultural Abandon

He envisages the first world in a state of perpetual flux and cultural abandon – welcoming countless un-vetted refugees as “brothers and sisters” and granting every seemingly minority view a status equalling that of the majority. Regardless of the prevailing “mood” of the populace in our countries we are to be forced to allow every refugee, asylum seeker or economic migrant to choose our locale for their new start and to be pleased.

Many of these “travellers” are neither Syrian or from conflict zones. Those that are, have in the main, been created by US foreign policy disasters but the bill for these adventures is being picked up in general by Western Europe and in particular the populations of the United Kingdom, Germany and Sweden whose social structures and rampant political correctness are so attractive to these “travellers”.

However, Obama has saddled his own nation with a similar version of unbridled immigrant access from Mexico and South America.

Breathtaking Paradoxes

He notes that “democracy”, in his view, will and should take different forms in nations across the globe as it takes account of local “cultural” variations, religious preferences and regional ethnic themes. Failing it would seem to appreciate that his administration and he himself personally have done all they can to undermine these local variations in his own nation and in Western Europe.

Clearly, with a sideways glance at irony his speechwriters then ignored the juxtaposition of his comments regarding capitalism beside what amounted to a socialist policy document.

“The commitments we’ve made to the Sustainable Development Goals speak to this truth. I believe that capitalism has been the greatest creator of wealth and opportunity that the world has ever known. But from big cities to rural villages around the world, we also know that prosperity is still cruelly out of reach for too many. As His Holiness Pope Francis reminds us, we are stronger when we value the least among these, and see them as equal in dignity to ourselves and our sons and our daughters.”

A Legacy of Failure & Betrayal

Obama stands atop a pile of the corpses of US veterans, coalition partners and local militia’s whose past efforts he has squandered or current efforts left unsupported via his administrations stuttering hesitancy. Obama has presided over a foreign policy free-fall that has seen countless Middle Eastern and North African bombed-tortured-enslaved-persecuted-murdered-drowned civilians, led Europe to a state of cultural collapse in the face of unhindered economic migration, and seen factions across the globe create allegiances that are firmly polarised across religious and sectarian lines.

The lampoonish figure of this man who is responsible for these outcomes lecturing us like a Mandelaesque wannabe all the while waving a CND flag while allowing Iran access to the technologies for a nuclear weapon, clutching his pro-choice card and popping dandelions in the barrels of jihadi AK-47s is all the more aggravating as he has the audacity to look as smug as his co-conspirators while pontificating. Completely ignorant of his own legacy of failure.

Nothing in all the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity. At best this is what Obama and Merkel and Francis are guilty of.

Yesterday Obama delivered a “why can’t we all just get along” plea at the United Nations General Assembly in the spirit…
Posted by TMG Corporate Services on Tuesday, September 29, 2015


Misguided Faith in Failed Institutions

“It is this international order that has underwritten unparalleled advances in human liberty and prosperity. It is this collective endeavour that’s brought about diplomatic cooperation between the world’s major powers, and buttressed a global economy that has lifted more than a billion people from poverty. It is these international principles that helped constrain bigger countries from imposing our will on smaller ones, and advanced the emergence of democracy and development and individual liberty on every continent.”

Obama spoke these words as fact – the test however is “time” and to put forward this thesis as fact bears no witness to the truth that since 1945 the “institutions” which he refers to are just seventy years old and are not mature enough or tested enough to offer, as he does, as the undisputed “global solution” going forward.

In fact on countless occasions the economic, social and military concepts of co-operation and mutual self interest and “self-evident truths” – a phrase he borrowed from a Constitution which he has shamelessly trampled on since his inauguration – have crumbled in even the most minor of crises.

We are globally more unequal now than we have been at any point in the past and all the credible studies show this is to continue and not reverse.

Add to that climate change, population growth, failures in disease control, economic uncertainty and global regional conflicts and one wonders how Obama can expect those who have in the previous centuries suffered and dragged themselves from these deprivations are simply going to mortgage their nations and families futures to those who have either abandoned or destroyed theirs in their own countries.

A Race To The Lowest Common Denominator

These are facts and not ultra-liberal fiction – Obama views “equality” not as the improvement of the conditions of those who are already comfortable but a race to the lowest common denominator where those in the first world move downwards to joined those in the second and third world as they rise upwards.

It is a dreamers concept where the hodge-podge of argument and rationalisation for such a policy can only be realistic in the mind of a egocentric with a mood of entitlement.

Misquoting History

“The people of our United Nations are not as different as they are told. They can be made to fear; they can be taught to hate—but they can also respond to hope. History is littered with the failure of false prophets and fallen empires who believed that might always makes right, and that will continue to be the case. You can count on that. But we are called upon to offer a different type of leadership—leadership strong enough to recognize that nations share common interests and people share a common humanity, and, yes, there are certain ideas and principles that are universal.”

His reference to reasons for the failure of historical empires and the cherry picking of examples to support his argument makes assumption that while he is arguing against holding strong values and opinions that the number of empire’s that fell because they stuck rigidly to their beliefs is matched by those that fell by allowing the utter dilution of the very principles that made them great – most notably the greatest of them all – the Roman Empire. Obama is no student of history.

But Obama was never one for digging deep to rationalise his opinions – he after all represents a minority view of sweeping generalisations but considers himself above reproach with respect to minority affairs. A worn out notion but one which still seven years on he pulls out of his single bag of tricks to push down any opposition as radical, racist, extreme or all three preferably – completely undermining the very “message” that he purports to be the on-high appointed courier for – namely tolerance.

The Erosion of US Prestige

He has failed to grasp and those willing nodders around him have also left unobserved the awkward fact that US influence and prestige has eroded globally over the last seven years to a point where former stalwart allies and client states have sought or are seeking options elsewhere.

In May 2014 we paraphrased coverage of Obama’s whistle stop tour of the East that stated:

America’s allies are nervous. With Russia grabbing territory, China bullying its neighbours and Syria murdering its people, many are asking: where is Globocop? Under what circumstances will America act to deter troublemakers? What, ultimately, would America fight for?

In the intervening seventeen months we have been given the answer: America – under its current leadership will fight for nothing.

Filling the Vacuum

Russia is still grabbing territory but has now been joined by China and Iran who have observed – in the spirit of Chamberlain – Obama’s lack of firm intervention with respect to both the de-stabilisation of Eastern Ukraine and the annexation of the Crimea by Russia.

Obama offers the “success” of economic sanctions as the justification of not wielding a stronger stick. The uncomfortable fact is that economic sanctions have led Iran to negotiate a pro-Iranian nuclear deal which the misguided President still believes is verifiable. And pushed Russia to further expansion as a direct result of US actions. Clearly Putin is protecting Assad who has vehemently opposed the construction of the Qatari gas pipeline which actions protects Russia as the key supplier of that resource to Western Europe and the foreign currency he so badly needs.

To quote Global Research: “A battle has raged over whether pipelines will go toward Europe from east to west, from Iran and Iraq to the Mediterranean coast of Syria, or take a more northbound route from Qatar and Saudi Arabia via Syria and Turkey. Having realized that the stalled Nabucco pipeline, and indeed the entire Southern Corridor, are backed up only by Azerbaijan’s reserves and can never equal Russian supplies to Europe or thwart the construction of the South Stream, the West is in a hurry to replace them with resources from the Persian Gulf. Syria ends up being a key link in this chain, and it leaned in favour of Iran and Russia; thus it was decided in the Western capitals that its regime needs to change. The fight for democracy is a false flag thrown out to cover up totally different aims.”

In January 2015 in our post “Risks Ahead in the South China Sea” we noted that China continues to bully in the region around the Spratly and Paracel Islands.

Syria in the intervening period, along with Libya, is a failed state witness to destruction, genocide and a regional humanitarian crisis on a scale not seen since the 1940’s. The outcome of Obama inaction is that the isolated Assad and the vacuum created by lack of Western support for a lesser evil in the face of ISIS has meant that Russia, China and Iran have moved to a position of unassailable control in Syria, Iraq and Lebanon.

Iran has been allowed to position its Sh’ia militias all across non-KRG Iraq and embolden its proxy Hezbollah in Lebanon and Golan.

Putin’s Vision of the Middle East

Putin has a vision of a wall of Iranian-dominated, Russia-friendly, anti-American states stretching from western Afghanistan through Iran, Iraq, Syria and Lebanon to the Mediterranean Sea. And he’s well on his way to achieving it, thanks to the nuclear deal with Iran, US military hesitancy in the region and, now, an open alliance between Russia, China, Iran, Iraq’s Shia militias, Hezbollah and the forces of the Assad regime.

That wall would not only keep out the United States, it would isolate the Kurds and overshadow the last US clients in the region, including Israel who has already moved to improve relations with Moscow and receive assurances with respect to Moscow and Beijing’s intentions as they commence a military buildup based around the port of Tartus and the Assad heartland of Damascus.

At the time (May 2014) the following was noted of Obama’s questioning by the media:

The answer to this question matters. Rogue states will behave more roguishly if they doubt America’s will to stop them. As a former head of Saudi intelligence recently said of Vladimir Putin’s land grab in Ukraine: “While the wolf is eating the sheep, there is no shepherd to come to the rescue.” Small wonder that Barack Obama was asked, at every stop during his four-country swing through Asia, how exactly he plans to wield American power. How would the president respond if China sought to expand its maritime borders by force? How might he curb North Korea’s nuclear provocations? At every press conference he was also quizzed about Ukraine.

None of these legacy issues have been materially addressed by Obama and Co. in the intervening months and yesterdays speech suggests that will be the case until November 2016 – for that speech naively pleaded for reasonable actions from unreasonable people as the solution to these problems.

Indifference in the Audience

The sceptical faces of many at the Assembly was not just made up of the usual suspects but many formerly “standing ovation” members when any US President previously delivered a keynote address at a time of great import. The lack lustre applause at the appointed times throughout the cringe worthy oratory was also notable and telling.

Obama’s own rationale and metrics can equally be applied to the foreign policy failures that he has created and presided over. In trying to cater to everybody he caters to nobody and undermines not emboldens the principles that he allegedly finds so appealing. His removal from office by the expiry of his abused mandate (making his own laws via the Supreme Court / signing Executive Orders on a weekly basis / failure to consult the “Voice of the People” – Congress) or impeachment cannot happen too quickly for the West. An abrogation of responsibility, in favour of unproven and previously failed strategies, on the scale of Obama’s has not been witnessed before and hopefully will never be again.

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Iran as a planner and supporter of global terror

Since the declaration of the Islamic Republic of Iran in 1979, the government of Iran has been accused by members of the international community for funding, providing equipment, weapons, training and giving sanctuary to terrorists. The United States State Department describes Iran as an “active state sponsor of terrorism.”US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice elaborated stating, “Iran has been the country that has been in many ways a kind of central banker for terrorism in important regions like Lebanon through Hezbollah in the Middle East, in the Palestinian Territories, and we have deep concerns about what Iran is doing in the south of Iraq. 
World attention on Iran centers on the threats to international security posed by the country’s nuclear program. As Iran persistent to become a nuclear power, the regime in Tehran also employs an aggressive foreign policy that relies heavily on the deployment of clandestine assets abroad to collect intelligence and support foreign operations. The world’s most active state sponsor of terrorism, Tehran relies on terrorism to further Iranian foreign policy interests. Today, Iran feels itself under increasing pressure from the international community by both diplomatic and economic sanctions.
From the Stunt virus to the assassination of Iranian scientists and the defection of Iranian agents, Iran feels increasingly targeted by Western intelligence services in general and Israel and the United States in particular. Hezbollah and Iran each have their own reasons for executing terrorist attacks targeting Israeli or other Western targets. Iran seeks to avenge attacks on its scientists and sanctions targeting its nuclear program, and Hezbollah seeks to avenge Mughniyeh’s death. This convergence of interests strengthens their long-standing and intimate relationship, making their combined operational capabilities that much more dangerous.
In the past, major acts of Iranian state sponsorship of terrorism have ultimately been linked back to the most senior elements of the Iranian leadership. When such cases have led to major law enforcement investigations and prosecutions, the links have been made public. For example, in June 1996 bombing of the Khobar Towers housing complex that was home to American, Saudi, French, and British service members in Saudi Arabia’s Eastern Province—the last time Iranian agents carried out an attack targeting both U.S. and Saudi interests. In that case, Iranian agents teamed up with Saudi and Lebanese Hezbollah operatives to carry out the attack. According to the testimony of a former CIA official, arrangements for the Khobar Towers attack began around 1994, including planning meetings likely held in Tehran and operational meetings held at the Iranian embassy in Damascus, Syria. It was in 1994, according to this account, that the criminal Supreme Leader of Iran, Ali Khomeini, gave the order for the attack on the Khobar Towers complex.


In April 2008, Gen. David Petraeus testified before the Senate Armed Services Committee about the flow of sophisticated Iranian arms to Shia militants in Iraq. The military’s understanding of Iran’s support for such groups crystallized, Petraeus explained, with the capture of a number of prominent Shia militants and several members of the Qods Force operating in Iraq as well. In case it was not already clear to General Petraeus that Qods Force Chief Gen. Qasem Soleimani was calling the shots for Iran in Iraq, the head of the Qods Force reportedly sent the commander of coalition forces a message in early 2008 to make the point. Conveyed by a senior Iraqi leader, the message came just as Iraqi and coalition forces initiated Operation Charge of the Knights, a concerted effort to target Iraqi Shia militias in Baghdad and Basra. Iran’s use of terrorism as a tool of foreign policy, however, goes back as far as the 1979 Islamic Revolution. Writing in 1986, the CIA assessment which is now de-classified report titled “Iranian Support for International Terrorism” that while Iran’s support for terrorism was meant to further its national interest, it also stemmed from the clerical regime’s perception “that it has a religious duty to export its Islamic revolution and to wage, by whatever means, a constant struggle against the perceived oppressor states. According to CIA reporting in the late 1980s, “Iranian leaders view terrorism as an important instrument of foreign policy that they use both to advance national goals and to export the regime’s Islamic revolutionary ideals. Tehran’s capability to carry out global terror attacks rests on its ability to call upon a group of Middle East–based terror groups willing to act at Iran’s behest, a network that would almost certainly be called upon to execute the kind of asymmetric terror attacks that can be carried out with reasonable deniability and therefore make a targeted response more difficult.

Muhammad Hejazi, the deputy head of Iran’s armed forces, hinted that Tehran could order proxy militant groups in Gaza and Lebanon to fire rockets into Israel. He even implied such a strike could be used preemptively, before an attack on Iran. “We are no longer willing to wait for enemy action to be launched against us,” he told Iran’s Fars News Agency. “Our strategy now is that we will make use of all means to protect our national interests.”16 Hezbollah leaders have also stated they would stand by Iran and any other entity that has stood up to the “Zionist regime.

Of all the terrorist groups that Tehran has sponsored over the past twenty-eight years, none is more important to Iran than Hezbollah. Iran helped to create Hezbollah in the early 1980s, funding, training, and indoctrinating new members of the fledgling movement. This support created a completely loyal proxy group ready to engage in terrorist activities at Iran’s behest. As one senior Hezbollah official noted in the early 1980s, “Our relation with the Islamic revolution is one of a junior to a senior of a soldier to his commander.
In Africa, where Hezbollah’s support networks are well entrenched, the group need not rely on Iranian operational support as much as it does elsewhere. It is said that said, the sponsor and its proxy do cooperate closely on two key agenda in Africa: proselytizing and recruitment, and arms smuggling. Committed to its constitutional directive to export the Islamic Revolution, the Revolutionary Guard proactively recruits Shia in Africa by the efforts of Iranian and Lebanese missionaries proselytizing across the continent. As early as 1985, the CIA was aware that Iran had long been known to “promote subversive activity” in far-flung countries with Shia populations, including Nigeria. Three years later, a CIA report acknowledged the phenomenon was far more widespread than just in Nigeria. Moreover, the agency highlighted Hezbollah’s participation in efforts to spread Iran’s Islamic revolutionary vision in Africa.


Iraqi Shia extremists feature prominently in Iran’s arsenal of regional proxies. On their own, and in cooperation with the Qods Force, local Hezbollah affiliates and groups like the Iraqi Dawa Party have engaged in terrorism and political violence in support of their own and Iranian interests. In time, evidence of Hezbollah’s presence in Iraq would be plentiful. Indeed, Hezbollah would create an outfit, Unit 3800, dedicated to aiding the Shia insurgency in Iraq. Iraq became a core issue for Hezbollah, however, not because it had anything to do with Lebanon but because gaining influence over Iraq and hegemony in the region is of primary concern to its Iranian sponsors. Of course, Iran has long sought to push the United States out of the Gulf region. “Iranian-sponsored terrorism is the greatest threat to U.S. personnel and facilities in the Middle East.” So read the opening statement of a CIA memo written in mid-February 1985 on terrorism in the Middle East. So it was that Hezbollah, at Iran’s behest, helped develop a sophisticated training program for Shia militants from Iraq. Some training occurred in Iraq, reportedly at the Deir and Kutaiban camps east of Basra near the Iranian border. In Iran, Hezbollah and Qods Force instructors ran a well-organized training program in which Daqduq was directly involved, “helping Qods Force in training Iraqis inside Iran.”

Over time, Hezbollah operatives trained enough Iraqi Shia militants—in Iraq, Iran, and Lebanon—to significantly improve the Special Groups’ paramilitary capabilities. Hezbollah provided the Iraqi insurgents “with the training, tactics and technology to conduct kidnappings, small unit tactical operations, and employ sophisticated improvised explosive devices, incorporating lessons learned from operations in Southern Lebanon,” according to an April 2010 Pentagon report. Indeed, it would not take long before Hezbollah operatives would begin directing Iraqi militants in the execution of exactly such operations.
Also Washington reported in The Jerusalem Post that : Iran continues to arm and finance a terrorist network that extends from South Asia to the Horn of Africa, from Iraq to Yemen, and across the Palestinian territories, the US State Department reported on Wednesday, acknowledging US willingness to nevertheless engage directly in talks with the state over its nuclear program. Much of the report, released annually by the State Department to outline threats of terrorism around the world, focuses on Iran’s expansive efforts to fund and funnel arms to Islamist organizations, including Hamas in Gaza and Hezbollah, which is based in Lebanon but operates worldwide.“Iran has historically provided weapons, training, and funding to Hamas and other Palestinian terrorist groups,” the report details, “although Hamas’s ties to Tehran have been strained due to the Syrian civil war.” In its efforts to bolster Hezbollah, Iran considers Syria “a crucial causeway in its weapons supply route” and has taken an active role in supporting embattled Syrian President Bashar Assad, the US report claims.
Consider that Iran’s intelligence penetration of South America has expanded significantly since the AMIA bombing. Testifying before Congress in the weeks following that 1994 attack, the State Department’s coordinator for counterterrorism expressed concern that Iranian embassies in the region were stacked with larger than necessary numbers of diplomats, some of whom were believed to be intelligence agents and terrorist operatives:“We are sharing information in our possession with other States about Iranian diplomats, Iranian terrorist leaders who are posing as diplomats, so that nations will refuse to give them accreditation, or if they are already accredited, to expel them. We have had some success in that respect, but we have not always succeeded.

Acknowledgements: Akam Assadi

The places you’re most likely to get kidnapped



The places you’re most likely to get kidnapped.
Author: Gordon Bottomley 
http://www.vocativ.com, Jan 07, 2014 07:57 EST
Additional reporting by Jan-Albert Hootsen in Mexico City and Jeff Neumann in Beirut.

What’s my motivation?

An overwhelming majority of kidnappings today are motivated by aims that are chiefly financial in nature. Although kidnappers’ motivations can (and do) range from ideological to the more amorous and/or custodial (think Helen of Troy), kidnapping has emerged as a lucrative, reliable stream of income for organizations and individuals (consider the fact that ransom payments in 2012 topped $500 million).

How we know

First, we began by collecting data on global kidnappings incidents by country using a variety of sources, including government and inter-governmental agency data, local, regional and national press and media reports, global incident databases and forums, input from relevant subject matter experts, and (yes) industry-specific reports published by risk advisory firms, tourism groups and insurance companies. 

Next, we filtered the unstructured data using unique keyword strings to sort incidents into buckets based on specific parameters, such as motivation, type and location. This enabled us eventually to focus on the most relevant incidents for international travelers—that is, kidnappings that are motivated solely by financial gain.

Finally, we combined incident information for each country with relevant tourism and travel data, to find the intersection of popular travel destinations that have relatively high kidnap rates.
It’s a growth industry

Kidnapping is booming. To help you to stay safe when you travel, we’ve mapped out the places where you face the greatest risk of getting scooped up by rebels, terrorists or “mainstream” criminals.

There are lots of reasons people avoid high-profile travel destinations—the flights are too long, the hotels are overpriced, the beaches are overrun with German men in skimpy swimwear. But there’s another, sometimes overlooked criteria that you probably won’t find in your copy of Frommer’s or the Rough Guide: The likelihood of getting kidnapped at gunpoint.

Unless you’re the kind of person who heads to the swamps of Nigeria for a little R&R, it’s unlikely you’ve given much thought to the threat of kidnapping when planning your trips. But kidnapping has boomed over the past decade, thanks to the growing socioeconomic divide around the globe and the spread of radical groups. While kidnappers used to target rich locals, and the abductions were largely confined to a handful of countries, these days foreign business executives and tourists are now just as likely to be the victims, and the abductions can happen virtually anywhere. Public policy groups estimate there were more than 100,000 kidnappings around the world last year, including locals and foreigners.

Kidnapping hotspots

To make sense of today’s kidnapping risk overseas, we’ve mapped out the places where you face the greatest danger. This isn’t simply a list of places with the highest kidnapping rates, That directory would include no-brainers like Syria (which has been fighting a bloody civil war for the last three years) and Afghanistan (which has become a haven for Jihadists). We’re assuming you don’t need someone to tell you that those places are somewhat perilous for travelers.
Our list focuses, instead, on countries that are first and foremost popular travel destinations—and that also happen to have a high rate of abductions. There are some surprises on the list: India, for example, might seem out of place among the world’s kidnapping capitals, but the numbers don’t lie.



The official data is skewed

It’s not easy to wrangle data on kidnappings. For one, both governments and kidnapping victims are known to underreport abductions. Also, there are a number of different varieties of kidnapping, and not all countries classify each and every kind as a “kidnapping.” For example, in parts of Asia and Latin America, so-called virtual kidnappings are common—that’s where the bad guys claim falsely that they have abducted someone and demand a ransom. In some countries, these go in the books as “fraud” not “kidnapping.” Another example: “Express kidnappings” where hostages are taken for a day or two at most, just long enough to deplete their bank accounts or max out their credit cards, are sometimes logged as “robberies.”

In pulling together this list, we’ve adjusted for these various quirks and discrepancies to focus on the types of abductions that most often affect tourists and travelers. The countries below are ordered from most kidnapping incidents to least.

Safe travels.

MEXICO


A group of people kidnapped by alleged drug traffickers sit on the 
floor after being rescued by the Mexican Army. (Dario Leon/AFP/Getty Images)

Kidnap rate: Kidnapping isn’t a new threat in Mexico, but it is now endemic. In the last decade, kidnappings have grown 245 percent (and that’s just reported incidents). Last year, almost 1,583 kidnapping cases were reported to Mexican authorities—the highest number since Mexico began tracking kidnapping stats in 1997.

How the kidnaps typically play out: ”Express” and “virtual” varieties that target both locals and foreigners. Last year’s virtual kidnaps included a Spanish indie rock band visiting Mexico City to perform in a music festival and a U.S. citizen participating in an Ironman competition in Cozumel. The kidnappers demanded $380,000 for the band. Both of these incidents were relatively mild. The country’s kidnappers have a reputation for being particularly violent: 935 victims were killed between 1994 and 2008.

What’s fueling the kidnapping: The government clampdown on Mexico’s drug trade has played a role, heightening competition among traffickers and, in some cases, forcing the traffickers to look for other sources of revenue.

The bottom line: The droves of spring-breakers and tequila-drinkers that descend on the country each year are safest holed up in their private resorts, as Mexico has the highest number of kidnappings in the world.

INDIA


A Maoist guards Italian tourist Claudio Colangelo and 
tour operator Paolo Bosusco, both of whom were kidnapped, 
in Orissa state, India. (AFP/Getty Images)

Kidnap rate: Kidnapping and abduction rates have grown faster than any other crime over the past 60 years in India.

How the kidnaps typically play out: Several highly publicized abductions and rape incidents involving tourists last year made headlines. One involved a 30-year-old American tourist who was offered a ride back to her hotel by three men. Instead, the men took her to a secluded spot and raped her.

What’s fueling the kidnapping: Poverty appears to be the single biggest driver. The country’s poorer states, like Bihar, regularly account for a large share of kidnaps. Several larger criminal organizations and rebel groups also use abductions to augment their revenue streams.

The bottom line: While visitors to India’s postcard-worthy wonders like the Taj Mahal and Fatehpur Sikri can be reasonably confident of their safety, both of these UNESCO heritage sites are in Uttar Pradesh, one of the Indian states with the highest number of abductions.

VENEZUELA


Angel Falls at Canaima National Park (Reuters/Jorge Silva)

Kidnap rate: There were more than 1,000 kidnap-for-ransom incidents last year.

How the kidnaps typically play out: Caracas, the capital, has one of the highest homicide rates in the world. One of the more recent and harrowing kidnapping incidents took place in July 2012. A Portuguese man was taken from a highway service station and held captive in an underground bunker beneath a rural residence in Carabobo state for nearly a year. He was rescued in June 2013 (the perpetrators did not receive the $6.5 million ransom they had demanded).

What’s fueling the kidnapping: Lack of economic opportunities, especially in Caracas, create an environment conducive to kidnappings. In some of the city’s poorest areas, police are unable to maintain order, and criminals have license to do as they please.

The bottom line: Caracas is the country’s hotbed of kidnapping activity, and there are fewer risks for foreigners traveling outside the capital. But the key takeaway is this: Travel to Venezuela is not for the risk-averse, as it remains one of the most kidnapping-prone places in the world.

LEBANON


Lebanese gunmen from the al-Muqdad, a large Lebanese Shiite Muslim clan, 
say they have kidnapped at least 20 Syrians to try to secure the release of a family member. (AFP/Getty Images)

Kidnap rate: Some estimates suggest kidnapping rates rose as much as 94 percent in 2013. Our analysis showed at least 39 kidnappings last year, though given the current porous, shifting nature of the Syrian border, that number is almost certainly much higher.

How the kidnaps typically play out: While the majority of abductees seem to be locals, aid workers, journalists and foreign tourists have been hit, too. Seven Estonian cyclists were abducted in March 2011 in an attack that Lebanese officials described as planned and coordinated. The cyclists were freed four months later. The Estonians later described their abductors as eight Islamic extremists armed with Kalashnikovs who had pressured them to convert to Islam.

What’s fueling the kidnapping: Lebanon spent much of the ’70s and ’80s beset by a brutal civil war, and tit-for-tat kidnappings were a near-daily occurrence. The end of hostilities in the ’90s ushered in a period of relative stability, and tourism flourished. But the civil war in neighboring Syria has plunged Lebanon back into chaos.

The bottom line: As long as Syria remains mired in conflict, kidnappings in Lebanon are unlikely to subside. For the moment, Westerners have remained largely outside the crosshairs of kidnappers. But, as one journalist warned back in September, Americans and Europeans could easily become the next victims, especially if local groups take issue with their countries’ foreign policies.

THE PHILIPPINES


El Nido is bordered by the Linapacan Strait in the north, the Sulu Sea in 
the east, and the South China Sea in the west. (Getty Images/Jonas Gratzer)

Kidnap rate: Kidnappings in the Philippines nearly doubled in 2013—and there were more than 20 kidnap-for-ransom cases alone, based on media reports and government figures.

How the kidnaps typically play out: Pirates trolling the Sulu Sea, which separates the Philippines islands from Malaysia’s Sabah region, have been the scene of numerous abductions over the last decade. Just last November, armed gunman took a Taiwanese tourist from an island just off Sabah after killing her husband. The tourist was rescued a month later. Officials have not said if a ransom was paid.

What’s fueling the kidnapping: Criminals and separatist groups that operate in the region treat foreigners, particularly wealthy visitors from China, as human ATMs. Abu Sayyaf, a prominent militant Islamist group with links to Al Qaeda, has been responsible for numerous tourist abductions over the past few years. Some figures suggest the group has collected over $35 million in ransom fees.

The bottom line: Unfortunately, the coastal and island resorts in the southern Philippines that are particularly popular among vacationers are also frequented by kidnappers and pirates. The good news? The vast majority of abductees have been released unharmed. (Of course, that’s assuming you can foot the bill.)

COLOMBIA


Leticia in Colombia, a gateway town to the Amazon River (Wikipedia/Pedro Szekely)

Kidnap rate: The kidnap threat in Colombia has improved significantly in the last 10 years, thanks to peace talks between the government and the rebels, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), with just 219 incidents reported last year, according to Colombia’s Defense Ministry.

How the kidnaps typically play out: A majority of the kidnappings in tourist areas are “express,” usually lasting less than 48 hours. During these “quicknappings,” armed gangs force their victims to withdraw funds from one or more ATMs, sometimes using other proxies, such as cab drivers, to facilitate the kidnap.

What’s fueling the kidnaps: Economics. FARC, which has a history of kidnappings to raise money, last year called a stop to that practice as part of the peace process. It’s not uncommon for criminals to claim kidnappings or other actions in the FARC’s name.

The bottom line: While Colombia is no longer teeming with criminal gangs and narco-traffickers the way it was five years ago, it is still a volatile place. Risks remain for foreigners, more so for employees of international oil and mining companies than sightseers and vacation travelers.

BRAZIL


The statue of “Christ the Redeemer” atop Corcovado mountain in Rio. (Reuters/Bruno Domingos)

Kidnap rate: Brazil officially recorded 319 kidnapping cases in 2011. But because express kidnaps—the most common type of extortion scheme in Brazil—are not included in official kidnapping stats, our analysis suggests that well over 6,000 kidnappings take place each year.

How the kidnaps typically play out: Last year, an American tourist was kidnapped, raped and robbed after the minibus she was traveling on was hijacked by three men outside of Rio. The woman was traveling with her French boyfriend, who was also abducted, beaten and bound, and forced to watch the ordeal. The three men left with the passengers’ credit cards, which were reportedly used in multiple locations over the next few hours.

What’s fueling the kidnaps: Kidnappings in Brazil are fueled partly by organized crime, though many of the gangs are largely made up of untrained thugs looking for a quick financial gain. As a result, victims are often selected from Brazil’s lower classes because they can be targeted with little preparation.

The bottom line: Improvements in security in preparation for the World Cup in 2014 and Summer Olympics in 2016 should slow abduction rates in Brazil, which is far safer than most of its neighbors when it comes to kidnapping risk.

KENYA


People taking cover behind a bar inside a shopping mall following an 
attack by masked gunmen in Nairobi in September that killed at least 67 people. 
(AFP/Getty Images/Nichole Sobecki)

Kidnap rate: In 2013, there were about 74 kidnapping-for-ransom incidents in Kenya.

How the kidnaps typically play out: A British woman was kidnapped and her husband murdered in 2011 at a coastal resort near the Kenya-Somali border. Six months later, a French national was snatched from a private home in another heavily trafficked tourist hotspot nearby. She died in captivity in Somalia.

What’s fueling the kidnaps: Drastic socio-economic conditions and general lawlessness in Somalia are boosting kidnappings in Kenya, predominately along their shared border. These conditions serve as a breeding ground for extremists, like Al Shabaab, as well as run-of-the-mill criminals.

The bottom line: While Kenya’s wildlife safaris are a powerful draw for travelers, the beaches and resorts on the country’s north coast play an increasingly vital role in attracting tourists, but that’s also where the kidnapping risk is greatest. Travelers to other parts of Kenya should take precautions, too, given the recent growth of certain terrorist groups in the region. In September, Al Shabaab stormed a shopping mall in Nairobi. Though unconfirmed, Al Shabaab is thought to be behind some of the more recent kidnappings, too.

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Author: Gordon Bottomley; Contact: gbottomley@vocativ.com / @gfbiv. Reproduced by TMG CORPORATE SERVICES / THE MEDIATOR GROUP with permission of the copyright owner. Further reproduction prohibited without permissionOriginal article can be found at: http://www.vocativ.com/01-2014/places-youre-likely-get-kidnapped-vacation/ 

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