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Lafarge: From a terror financing factory to a US and French military base

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Jan 06, 2023 - 02:19 AM

ISTANBUL (AA) – French cement giant was sentenced to $778 million in Fines and Forfeiture on 18 October after pleading guilty to the US’ charges of providing material support to two designated terrorist groups, including Daesh/ISIS and al-Qaeda. After years of French attempts to sweep the dirt under the carpet, this sentence may facilitate judicial prosecutions for crimes committed against humanity by Lafarge officials and French officials. However, the Lafarge cement factory in Syria has also an often overlooked story about how it served the US military.

The US Attorney Breon Peace for the Eastern District of New York said: “Never before has a corporation been charged with providing material support and resources to foreign terrorist organizations. This unprecedented charge and resolution reflect the extraordinary crimes committed and demonstrates that corporations that take actions in contravention of our national security interests in violation of the law will be held to account.” [1]

The strategic importance of Lafarge

The prosecution of Lafarge should be considered of utmost importance for cutting off material support and resources to terrorist organizations, but the current state of coverage continues to ignore state responsibility and how other states benefitted from the French atrocities. To understand it, one needs to look into where the cement factory is located.

The Lafarge cement factory is located at the crossroads between Aleppo and Raqqa and lies on the strategic M4 highway. The location is of utmost strategic importance. When Daesh attacked Ayn al-Arab (Kobane) in 2014, it proceeded from Raqqa through the cement factory. Also, the above-mentioned M4 highway connects northeast Syria to the Syrian coast and to the M5 highway which goes from the North to the South. All economic and logistic transactions in Syria go through these two highways.

Lafarge supported terrorist organizations

After the cement factory was recaptured by the YPG, the Syrian branch of the terrorist organization PKK, the logistical value of the factory was now used by another terror group. The big storage facilities as well as the industrial complex were crucial for the YPG’s push toward Raqqa and Tabqah. Thanks to French efforts, the factory was not destroyed by the airstrikes of the international coalition while it was controlled by Daesh.

Just as the courts in the US and France ignore the financial aid provided by Lafarge to the PKK, the role of the factory after 2014 is ignored as well. With the control of the YPG over the factory, the location was selected by the US to deploy its military personnel. The US military base was stationed in Lafarge and it was used as a helicopter hub. American helicopters flew in from Iraq and were allegedly used in the fight against Daesh. The big storage units of the Lafarge cement factory were useful to store weapon supplies for the YPG and US soldiers.

Lafarge served US-supported YPG’s presence in Syria

In retrospect; not destroying the factory was not only securing French investment but also establishing a strong and important military base for the US in Syria. Without the French efforts to maintain the factory by paying the terrorist organizations PKK, Daesh/ISIS, and al-Qaeda between 2012 and 2014, the US would not be able to find such an important site. The factory would likely be broken down into pieces and sold in the black market of Syria –as it happened to other factories in Syria. Even though the US courts sentenced Lafarge, it cannot be denied that the crimes committed by the French later served the US presence in Syria.

The US established a well-planned logistical supply line from the Iraqi border to the Manbij region in the West of the Euphrates River. Despite the Turkish-American Manbij roadmap, this supply line continued to deliver weapons and ammunition to the YPG in Manbij. With the US presence at the cement factory, Lafarge was one of the distribution centers of this logistical line. The US maintained its military presence in the site which previously supplied Daesh/ISIS and al-Qaeda with at least $9.13 million of income.

As a tragicomic twist of the outcome, the Lafarge cement factory also hosted French military personnel alongside American soldiers. The French army used the same facility for which Lafarge paid terrorists and was now fined. As known, in terms of intelligence gathering, the French authorities benefitted from Lafarge’s relationship with Daesh and al-Qaeda. Mostly ignored, the French state also benefitted from Lafarge militarily. However, it is only Lafarge who was sentenced to Fines and Forfeiture.

In 2019, under instructions by US President Donald Trump, the US military withdrew from the site according to an agreement reached with Damascus and Moscow. After that Russian soldiers and regime forces moved in. With this change, the US withdrew to the East of Syria and Russian forces moved into Manbij and East of the Euphrates until the line of Tal Tamr and Qamishli. Since then, the Russian military used the same logistical line as the American army, but in the opposite direction, ergo from Manbij towards the Iraqi border. This logistical line supplies Russian personnel and regime forces that are deployed in YPG-held areas.

The Lafarge Cement Factory in Syria financed terror organizations that supplied crimes against humanity and hosted French and US soldiers. Taxpayers need to know what happened with the factory site after 2014, and how and why this site of crime was protected and used by the French and US militaries. Furthermore, The current judicial investigation only focuses on the financing of Daesh/ISIS and al-Qaeda, but the Lafarge Cement Factory financed the terrorist organization PKK, as well. The factory was used to supply the Syrian branch of the PKK with weapons and ammunition.

[1] https://www.justice.gov/opa/pr/lafarge-pleads-guilty-conspiring-provide-material-support-foreign-terrorist-organizations

*Opinions expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Anadolu Agency.

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