Foreign policy group: U.S. must confront Saudi Arabia on terror financing
The US administration’s efforts in cutting off funds for global terrorism are destined to fail until it confronts the Saudi Kingdom, whose leaders have tolerated some of its rich citizens raising millions of dollars a year for Osama bin Laden’s al Qaeda network. This conclusion was included in a new report from an influential foreign policy organization, the Washington Post reported.
In its Thursday edition, the Post cited a report from the New York-based Council on Foreign Relations, due to be released the same day, which claims that the Bush administration must exert pressure on the Saudis, as well as other governments to crack down on terror financing, even at the risk of stirring a public backlash that could jeopardize the Saudi Arabian government.
"It is worth stating clearly and unambiguously what official U.S. government spokespersons have not," the report says. "For years, individuals and charities based in Saudi Arabia have been the most important source of funds for al Qaeda, and for years the Saudi officials have turned a blind eye to this problem."
Earlier on this year, ties between Riyadh and Washington became strained when a defense consultant told a Pentagon advisory committee that Saudis were active at all levels of the terror chain.
The Saudi government, for its part, had no immediate response to the report. Its embassy in Washington issued a statement hailing U.S.-Saudi cooperation in freezing terrorist assets and cracking down on charities, saying the support and financing of terrorism "cannot be tolerated."
The report, meanwhile, drew a sharp rebuttal from the Bush administration. Robert Nichols, the Treasury Department's deputy assistant secretary for public affairs, stated the report was "seriously flawed" and that his department considered it a "Clinton-era snapshot of what al Qaeda looked like in 1999 or 2000" without taking into consideration the new resources and strategies to fight terror financing. "We are not claiming victory, we are not spiking the football, but we are off to a good start," Nichols conveyed.
The report, prepared by a bipartisan panel of financial and terrorism specialists, discloses no new details regarding US or Saudi efforts to stanch terror funding. But it asserts what many officials have said privately for some time now.
"I know a lot of people in the administration are really upset with this, but it essentially lays out what many of us have been saying," said one high-ranking administration official. "That is, we need to come up with strategies that are as creative as those of the enemy, and that, like it or not, many of the financial roads to al Qaeda go through Saudi Arabia." (Albawaba.com)
© 2002 Al Bawaba (www.albawaba.com)