In case you missed it…this was on Counterterrorism Blog recently…
Treasury Designates Major Saudi Charity — Al Haramain – – For Financing Terrorists
By Victor Comras
Following several years of wrangling with Saudi Arabia over Al Haramain Islamic Foundation’s continuing international role in facilitating terrorism financing, the US Treasury Department has finally acted unilaterally to designate its whole world-wide operation, including Al Haramain’s headquarter offices, structure and operations in Saudi Arabia. Previous designation actions had been directed only against certain Al Haramain branches.
The Treasury Designation states, in part:
The U.S. Department of the Treasury today designated the Al Haramain Islamic Foundation (AHF) for having provided financial and material support to al Qaida, as well as a wide range of designated terrorists and terrorist organizations.
Today’s action targets the entirety of the AHF organization, including its headquarters in Saudi Arabia. Evidence demonstrates that the AHF organization was involved in providing financial and logistical support to the al Qaida network and other terrorist organizations designated by the United States and the United Nations.
Between 2002-2004, the United States designated thirteen AHF branch offices operating in Afghanistan, Albania, Bangladesh, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Comoros Islands, Ethiopia, Indonesia, Kenya, Netherlands, Pakistan, Somalia, Tanzania, and the United States.
Several of these branch offices have also been designated by the United Nations 1267 Committee based on evidence of their support for al Qaida. The United States and United Nations also designated in 2004 the former leader of AHF, Aqeel Abdelaziz Al-Aqil.
The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia joined the United States in designating several branch offices of AHF and, due to actions by Saudi authorities, AHF has largely been precluded from operating in its own name.
Despite these efforts, AHF leadership has attempted to reconstitute the operations of the organization, and parts of the organization have continued to operate.
Al Haramain Foundation was designated today under Executive Order 13224, which targets terrorists and those providing financial, technological, or material support to terrorists or acts of terrorism. Assets held by any office of the AHF organization under U.S. jurisdiction are frozen and U.S. persons are prohibited from engaging in any transactions with AHF.
Al Haramain is one of the world’s largest Wahhabi and Saudi Government-assisted Islamic Charities. Before 9/11 its offices operated around the world providing funds to propagate Wahhabi theology through its support for local social, education, cultural and humanitarian projects and activities. The principal contributors include the Saudi Royal Family along with numerous wealthy individuals and private groups. The group has also long been aligned with many of the activities of the Muslim Brotherhood, with chapters in Western Europe, the Balkans, the United States and Canada.
Al Haramain was one of the first charities directly linked to Al Qaeda funding. Its activities served to raise funds for Al Qaeda and to channel funds ostensibly as charitable contributions for local social activities to Al Qaeda (and Taliban) related groups operating in Afghanistan, Albania, Bosnia, Kenya, Somalia, Indonesia, Pakistan and other countries. While the US expressed great concern to the Saudi Government about these activities, the Saudi’s prevailed upon the United States not to seek to close down the whole Al Haramain operation. In turn, Saudi Arabia agreed to join the US in asking the UN Al Qaeda and Taliban Sanctions Committee to designate the suspect branches. The Saudi Government also promised to establish new controls and oversight of its operations, restrict its overseas operations and to replace and reform its leadership and management. But, despite these undertakings, little was in fact, done.
After removing Al Haramain’s Director General Aqeel Abdulaziz Al-Aqil, and his UN designation, the Saudi’s continued to allow Aqil to remain active behind-the-scenes- in so-called charity related fields, and to leave his other business interests alone. See also Doug Farah’s recent posting on the continuing activities of Wael Hamza Julaidan who was designated for terrorism financing activities along with the Rabita Trust.
In January 2005, the following excerpt appeared in a Saudi Newspaper:
Kingdom Has No Plans to Close Down Charities Abdul Wahab Bashir, Arab News
JEDDAH, 1 January 2005 ? Saudi Arabia has no plans to shut down any local charities, after Al-Haramain Islamic Foundation which had its offices closed down earlier in the year, a government minister has said.
The foundation has been accused by the United States of funding terrorism among several charity bodies in various parts of the world.
Minister of Islamic Affairs, Endowments, Dawa and Guidance, Saleh ibn Abdul Aziz Al-Sheikh, said there are no plans for the closure of any charity and that no imams (prayer leaders) have been sacked this year for having ties with terror cells or helping terrorists.
Speaking in Jeddah after inaugurating a ministry program for educating Haj and Umrah pilgrims, Al-Sheikh said the closure of Al-Haramain Foundation was not because of any suspicions surrounding its activities, but the decision was intended to serve the general interest.
The ministry, he said, has not reported any misconduct from the part of the charity and did not receive any documented information to this effect from any side.”
Treasury Department officials have long and regularly pressed the Saudi Government to carry through on its pledges to reign in Al Haramain and other major Wahhabi (and largely Saudi-funded) charities including the International Islamic Relief Organization (IIRO), World Muslim League (WML) and the World Assembly of Muslim Youth (WAMY). That’s been largely the job given to US Treasury UnderSecretary Stuart Levey, who told AIPAC back in March 2005, that
For too long, wealthy donors and multinational charities in Saudi Arabia were underwriting terrorism of all kinds, without any meaningful controls…. We impatiently await the creation of a commission to monitor the charitable sector, and continue to insist that this commission regulate all Saudi charities, without exception of such groups as the Muslim World League and the International Islamic Relief Organization, or “IIRO.” Also, in addition to the export of terrorist funds, we are extremely concerned about the export of terrorist ideologies. These teachings are as indispensable to terrorists as money, and possibly even more dangerous. We must do all we can to ensure that extremist, violent ideologies are not disseminated under the cover of religious organizations, charities, or schools.”
Unfortunately, little has changed since that time. And, this action now, on Treasury’s part is long overdue. They have long had sufficiently convincing information to act against Al Haramain, but have apparently refrained from doing so with regard to Saudi Royal Family sensitivies on the issue. Does this presage a new policy? Is this meant as a warning to Saudi Arabia that we will no longer contenance such activities by Saudi-sponsored charities, and that they had better now clean up the activities of the IIRO, WML and WAMY? Isn’t it curious also that this action comes on the heels of a Saudi promise to increase oil production?
When the Treasury Department acts unilaterally to designate such a group, it is usually a sign that the US has tried, and failed, to convince the UN Al Qaeda and Sanctions Committee to join in the designation, and thereby to impose a uniform chapter VII international obligation on all countries to freeze al Haramain assets and to deny its access to economic resources, ie, to put it out of business. Without such a worldwide commitment and obligation it is doubtful that the US action alone will do more than hamper al Haramain’s continuing overseas operations. Nevertheless, the treasury action is an important declaration and should be followed up by diplomatic action to put as much pressure as possible on the Saudi’s to close al Haramain down.