A US intelligence operation in Azerbaijan during the early 1990s may have involved the funding and arming of al-Qaeda, the transportation of al-Qaeda forces to Bosnia, and integrating al-Qaeda into a global drug trafficing network.

Timeline Edit

1991 - 1992 Edit

After the fall of the Soviet Union, Iran–Contra affair veterans Richard Secord, Harry C. Aderholt, and Ed Dearborn entered Azerbaijan in 1991 with a front company named MEGA Oil to bid on maintenance contracts for ex-Soviet oil wells and to offer to train Azeri soldiers for the war against Nagorno-Karabakh. According to Aderholt, most of the American team left when Azeri leaders requested assistance in importing mercenaries, which Aderholt believed would fail as a strategy. Gary Best remained in Azerbaijan. [1]

1992 - 1993 Edit

The Americans began getting contracts after Yagub Mammadov became President of Azerbaijan in March 1992. Joe Ponder of Ponder International described this as "the start of a lot of funny business with Gary Best." US Ambassador Richard Miles expelled Best from Azerbaijan twice. [1]

According to Irkali, Kodarian, and Ruchala, Gary Best worked through the Azeri Communist Party. [2]

Congressional interference Edit

On October 24, 1992, Congress passed Public Law 102-511, the Freedom Support Act, authorizing aid to former Soviet states but under Section 907 banning any US assistance to the Azeri government due to its war against the Christians in Armenia and Nagorno-Karabakh. [3] President George Bush signed the law the same day. [4]

Allegations Edit

Nuclear mission Edit

An anonymous American going by the nickname "Special Friend" said that their core mission was to "act wild and crazy and attract weirdos who might be interested in selling us some loose nuclear weapons." Their cover mission was to train pilots, who were taken to Texas for their training. On their return, they were ordered to transport hundreds of mujahideen from Afghanistan. [1]

Irkali, Kodarian, and Ruchala repeat a rumor that Best was caught in the act of actually attempting to export nuclear materials through Baku. [2] In 2002, the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission rejected a Freedom of Information Act request for information about "Nuclear fission materials leaving port of Baku, Azerbaijan, 1994-1996" through "Ponder Oil Services, Mega Oil, & Vista USA Inc." [5]

Mercenary fraud Edit

Irkali, Kodarian, and Ruchala accuse Best of recruiting "poor refugees whose only connection to war had been their flight from it", describing them to the Azeri government as experienced Afghan mujahideen, and sending them into battle with little training, dud ammunition, and orders to "advance at any cost". They allege that Best also hired American mercenaries who participated in the fighting and were never paid. [2]

Drug trafficing Edit

Peter Dale Scott notes that "At this time, heroin flooded from Afghanistan through Baku into Chechnya, Russia, and even North America. It is difficult to believe that MEGA’s airline (so much like Air America) did not become involved." [6]

1993 coup Edit

Nafeez Ahmed alleges that the American operation "contributed to the military coup" that overthrew elected President Abulfaz Elchibey in 1993. Ex-KGB officer Heydar Aliyev became President and would lead the country until 2003. Turkish intelligence blamed the coup on British and American intelligence working through BP and Amoco. [7] Claire Sterling, citing The Soviet Mafia by Arkady Vaksberg, describes Aliyev as a mafia kingpin. [8]

Geidar Aliev ... presided over a "petroleum mafia," a "fishing mafia," a "fruit and vegetable mafia," a "caviar mafia," a "railroad mafia," an "export mafia," a "customs mafia," and a "militia mafia" operating inside the Interior Ministry's Division for Fighting Violators of Socialist Property and Speculation.

Ponder fraud Edit

Al Martin claims that Mac Ponder was defrauded of $11 million by Secord and Aderholt. [9] Bob Fletcher accuses Best of defrauding Ponder of his business and expelling Ponder from Azerbaijan at gunpoint. [10]

After leaving Azerbaijan, Ponder issued a press release claiming $8 million in revenues from Vista that Vista had no intention of paying. [11]

Mack Ponder retired from Ponder Industries in 1996 and was replaced by Larry Armstrong [12] of Armstrong Tool LLC, who had been president and CEO of Ponder since 1990. [13]

Possible connection to Bosnia war Edit

In the context of discussing the Azerbaijan operation, Nafeez Ahmed writes: [7]

From 1992 to 1995, the Pentagon flew thousands of al-Qaeda mujahidin from Central Asia into Europe, to fight alongside Bosnian Muslims against the Serbs. The mujahidin were ‘accompanied by US Special Forces equipped with high-tech communications equipment,’ according to intelligence sources. [14] Bin Laden’s mercenaries were used as shock troops by the Pentagon ‘to coordinate and support Bosnian Muslim offensives’.

Ahmed cites as sources for this information Intelligence and the War in Bosnia 1992-1995 by Cees Weebes and the Defense and Foreign Affairs: Strategic Policy article US Commits Forces, Weapons to Bosnia.

Possible connection to Oklahoma City Bombing Edit

Militia of Montana activist Bob Fletcher places Gary Best establishing a presence in Oklahoma City shortly before the bombing, obtaining funding from Governor Frank Keating, importing "a few Mid-easterners, once in a while from the Baku, Azeri operations", and later declaring bankruptcy on the one-year anniversary of the bombing. [10] The presence of Best in Oklahoma City is supported by a contemporary news report by Jon Denton of The Oklahoman. [15]

Best bought the defunct Harris meat packing plant in the name of Vista Foods USA. Juergen Graeter of Atlanta, Georgia was named as general manager. Duane Smith was named as a manager. Jack Leebron was spokesman. [15] Megaoil USA perfected a $2 million lien on the assets of Vista Foods, giving one of Best's companies priority over other creditors in the bankruptcy of another of Best's companies. [16]

Other relations to Oklahoma City Edit

"Vista's President" had a presence in Oklahoma City in 1992. [11]

Ponder had locations in Healdton and El Reno, Oklahoma. [17] El Reno is a suburb 25mi west of Oklahoma City, while Healdton is near the Texas border. Ponder CEO Larry Armstrong and his company Armstrong Tool are located in Oklahoma City. [13]

Financing Edit

Al Martin named Mega Oil as one of "a cluster of two or three hundred accounts" at the Union Bank of Switzerland where money from Central Asian oil operations "continuously passed back and forth, almost in a loop." [18]

According to Stew Webb: [19]

Saudi European Director Gaith Pharoan, former head of Saudi Intelligence, also acted as registered agent for numerous Bush-controlled corporations for Bush interests in the Middle East. These involved Bahrain oil interests controlled by Richard Secord's Mega Oil. These would then get sold back to Harken Energy. Of course most of them were worthless. The leader of Bahrain, Prince Abdullah, was also one of the directors of the Saudi European Investment.

Contemporary business development Edit

Azerbaijan International Operating Company Edit

According to George Draffan: [20]

In 1991, Azerbaijan began negotiating with Amoco, BP, McDermott, Pennzoil, Ramco, Unocal, TPAO, Statoil and other corporations on a deal to develop the Azeri, Chirag and Gunashli fields in the Azeri sector of the Caspian Sea. Azerbaijan's State Oil Company (SOCAR) is to have a 20 percent share in the project and the Russian company Lukoil will take a 10 percent holding. The deal was signed in September 1994, and in December the consortium had formed as the Azerbaijan International Operating Company (AIOC), with Terry D. Adams as chairman. American corporations (Amoco, Pennzoil, Unocal, Exxon) have a 40 percent interest in the $8 billion AIOC. British corporations (BP, Ramco Khazar) have a 19 percent interest. SOCAR (Azerbaijan), Lukoil (Russia), Den Norske Stats Olieselscap (Norway), Turkie Petrollari (Turkey), Itochu (Japan), and Delta Nimir Khazar (Saudi Arabia) are also involved.

The AIOC consortium's plan to build a pipeline from Baku to Ceylon, Turkey, has gotten lobbying assistance from former British Energy Minister Tim Eggar (now CEO of the British corporation Monument Oil), former British Foreign Minister Malcolm Rifkind (now a director of the British oil corporation Ramco), two former U.S. National Security Advisors, Zbigniew Brzezinski and Brent Scowcroft (now a director of AIOC), as well as former U.S. Secretary of State James Baker (oil corporation attorney), former U.S. Secretary of the Treasury Lloyd Bentsen, former U.S. Defense Secretary Dick Cheney (then CEO of oil services corporation Halliburton, now candidate for U.S. Vice President), and former Whie House chief of staff John Sununu. Iran-Contra figure and former U.S. Air Force major general Richard Secord has been helping to train the Azerbaijani army.

US-Azerbaijan Chamber of Commerce Edit

As of 2003, members and significant past members of the U.S.-Azerbaijan Chamber of Commerce included: [21]



  • Ted Jonas - legal counsel, of Baker Botts
  • Karl Mattison - treasurer, representing the Eurasian Group, formerly of Riggs Bank
  • Seymour Khalilov - executive director, of US Department of Commerce

Board of Directors:

Board of Trustees:

Honorary Council of Advisors:

References Edit

  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 Thomas Goltz, Azerbaijan Diary, p.272-279,
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 Mark Irkali, Tengiz Kodrarian and Cali Ruchala, God Save the Shah, Diacritica,
  3. Public Law 102-511, 1992 October 24,
  4. FREEDOM Support Act 20th Anniversary, Bureau of International Information Programs, US State Department, 2012 September 28,
  5. Closed Appeal & FOIA/PA Cases by Subject - FY 2002, US Nuclear Regulatory Commission,
  6. Peter Dale Scott, 9/11 in Historical Perspective: Flawed Assumptions, 2005 July 22,
  7. 7.0 7.1 Nafeez Mosaddeq Ahmed, Our terrorists, New Internationalist #426, 2009 October 1,
  8. Clare Sterling, Thieves' World, p.92,!-!GKEEFJ!-!zrzor45!-!GIJEFEFH-QGGJ-HSJM-NFQI-FJKGKGEQRQFK!-!72y1nq/407e51b6-46b2-4b58-baac-fde266e95484.pdf
  9. Al Martin, The Conspirators,
  10. 10.0 10.1 Bob Fletcher, Oklahoma Bombs possibly courtesy of Uncle Sam's own mercenaries, 2008 October,
  11. 11.0 11.1 Jonathan G. Katz, In the matter of Ponder Industries, File No. 3-9349, US Securities and Exchange Commission,
  12. Mack Ponder retires from Ponder Industries; Larry Armstrong named chairman, CEO., press release, 1996,
  13. 13.0 13.1 Leadership, Armstrong LLC,
  14. US Commits Forces, Weapons to Bosnia, Strategic Policy, Defense and Foreign Affairs, 1994 October 31,
  15. 15.0 15.1 Jon Denton, Vista Foods USA Begins Production At Ex-Harris Plant, NewsOK, 1995 September 1,
  16. In re Vista Foods USA, 202 B.R. 499 (1996),
  17. Grant D. Beale, ETA Federal Register Notice, Volume 64, Number 236, Page 69042, US Department of Labor,
  18. Al Martin, Kurds Get Saddam; Next - Kurdistan or Cabalistan?, date unknown; cited in JP Heidner, The September 11 Commission Report, 2008 December
  19. Stew Webb, The Junk Bond Daisy Chain Fraud Starring Leonard Y. Millman, Larry Mizel, Charlie Keating, Gene Phillips, and the Bush Crime Family., 2004 December 16,
  20. George Draffan, Oil Wars: The Balkans,
  21. US-Azerbaijan Chamber of Commerce,
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