Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Well fancy that....

BUSINESS AS USUAL for Cameron and friends. Well customers, anyway.

I'VE not commented on the current row over Julian Assange's "diplomatic asylum" or extradition, which has bitterly divided friends, and led cleverer men than me to make fools of themselves.

I don't intend to now.

But moving back from what used to be News of the World territory to world news, I see a friend has posted this item suggesting it is "Why the US intelligence community would like to get its hands on Julian Assange".

I'm not sure if he's right, and anyway it is not news, being almost two years old. But it may remind us that while the US and its allies bombed and invaded two countries killing masses of innocent people in the name of "war on terror", before they ever got to Osama Bin Laden, we heard little about promises to cut off funds to Al Qaida, made after 9/11.

It also underlines the ridiculousness of a US court deciding to blame Iran, itself a target of Al Qaida and its backers, for the attack on the World Trade Centre.

But I am mainly putting it up because of the relevance to more recent attacks on which we have commented, from Mumbai to Mali, and to events in Libya and Syria.

Shocking cable: US says Saudi donors are chief financiers of al Qaeda (via Raw Story

A quick aside in a New York Times article about leaked diplomatic cables is sure to spark renewed interest about the role of the US’ biggest ally in the Gulf supporting terrorism.

In their wide-ranging précis of the leaked cables, Times reporters Scott Shane and Andrew Lehren mention in passing a key detail from one of the diplomatic dispatches: “Saudi donors remain the chief financiers of Sunni militant groups like Al Qaeda.”

No other details about the cable are provided by the Times. The referenced cable is not linked, and Raw Story has been unable to locate the specific language among additional cables published by The Guardian. (If you find the cable, please email

The admission is stunning, though it has been largely kept from public view, and hasn’t been admitted previously at such a high level. The “Blue Ribbon” Sept. 11, 2001 report noted that al Qaeda had raised money in Saudi Arabia but that no senior officials had provided material support.

Charges that Saudi donors have provided material support for terrorist groups — including Iraqi insurgents — are not new. A detailed Congressional Research Service report in 2007 highlighted repeated instances where Saudis were accused of supporting terrorist groups. The report was titled, “Saudi Arabia: Terrorist Financing Issues.”

“According to the U.S. State Department 2007 International Narcotics Control Strategy Report, ‘Saudi donors and unregulated charities have been a major source of financing to extremist and terrorist groups over the past 25 years,’” the report’s authors wrote. “The September 11, 2001 attacks fueled criticisms within the United States of alleged Saudi involvement in terrorism or of Saudi laxity in acting against terrorist groups. The final report released by the bipartisan National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States (the 9/11 Commission) indicates that the Commission ‘found no evidence that the Saudi government as an institution or senior Saudi officials individually funded [Al Qaeda].’ The report also states, however, that Saudi Arabia ‘was a place where Al Qaeda raised money directly from individuals and through charities’ and indicates that ‘charities with significant Saudi government sponsorship’ may have diverted funding to Al Qaeda. U.S. officials remain concerned that Saudis continue to fund Al Qaeda and other terrorist organizations.”

The Congressional Research Service report cautions against concluding that the Saudi monarchy had any direct role in al Qaeda’s financing. It notes that the Saudi government has made “numerous official statements” saying that they are “committed to cooperating with the United States in fighting terrorist financing, pointing out that Saudi Arabia itself is a victim of terrorism and shares the U.S. interest in combating it.”

But it also goes on to lay out claims that individuals in Saudi Arabia have underwritten Iraqi insurgents.

“In October 2004, an unidentified Defense Department official told the press that private Saudi individuals and charities were channeling funds to insurgent groups in Iraq,” the researchers wrote. “Saudi officials vigorously denied the claims and appealed for U.S. officials to provide concrete information in support of the charges so that Saudi authorities could investigate and prosecute any individuals or entities that may have been involved. In December 2004, press reports cited intelligence gathered following U.S. military operations, including the November 2004 assault on Fallujah, which indicated that ‘a handful of senior Iraqi Baathists operating in Syria are collecting money from private sources in Saudi Arabia and Europe’ and are channeling it to insurgent groups. In addition, news accounts have quoted insurgent facilitators stating that Saudi young men are particularly valuable to insurgent groups because Saudis provide for their own expenses and often personally finance insurgent operations.”

“A senior U.S. Treasury Department official testified in July 2005 that Saudi individuals may be ‘a significant source’ of financing for the Iraq insurgency,” they add. “The Iraq Study Group report stated that ‘funding for the Sunni insurgency [in Iraq] comes from private individuals within Saudi Arabia and the Gulf States.’ Iraqi officials have called on Saudi Arabia and other neighboring countries to do more to restrict financial networks operating in their countries from supporting insurgents in Iraq.”

Muqtedar Khan, Associate Professor of Islam and Global Affairs at the University of Delaware, criticized the Saudi government on the revelation at The Huffington Post, saying that the cables exposed Muslim governments’ hypocrisy.

“The… cables also reveal that even now the main financiers of al Qaeda are Saudi donors,” Khan writes. “American presidents George W. Bush and Barack H. Obama have identified al Qaeda as the biggest threat to the U.S., and yet they collude with the nation whose citizens are its biggest financiers. Why don’t the Saudis cut off the head of the real snake by arresting and imprisoning al Qaeda’s financiers? Most Americans know that fifteen of the nineteen terrorists that attacked the US on September 11, 2001, were Saudis. None were Iranians. A significant number of foreign fighters who joined al Qaeda in Iraq were Saudis. This is a classic case of the pot calling the kettle black.”

Raw Story (

Here is how the Guardian reported it:

Saudi Arabia is the world's largest source of funds for Islamist militant groups such as the Afghan Taliban and Lashkar-e-Taiba – but the Saudi government is reluctant to stem the flow of money, according to Hillary Clinton.

"More needs to be done since Saudi Arabia remains a critical financial support base for al-Qaida, the Taliban, LeT and other terrorist groups," says a secret December 2009 paper signed by the US secretary of state. Her memo urged US diplomats to redouble their efforts to stop Gulf money reaching extremists in Pakistan and Afghanistan.

"Donors in Saudi Arabia constitute the most significant source of funding to Sunni terrorist groups worldwide," she said.

Three other Arab countries are listed as sources of militant money: Qatar, Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates.

The cables highlight an often ignored factor in the Pakistani and Afghan conflicts: that the violence is partly bankrolled by rich, conservative donors across the Arabian Sea whose governments do little to stop them.

The problem is particularly acute in Saudi Arabia, where militants soliciting funds slip into the country disguised as holy pilgrims, set up front companies to launder funds and receive money from government-sanctioned charities.

One cable details how the Pakistani militant outfit Lashkar-e-Taiba, which carried out the 2008 Mumbai attacks, used a Saudi-based front company to fund its activities in 2005.

Meanwhile officials with the LeT's charity wing, Jamaat-ud-Dawa, travelled to Saudi Arabia seeking donations for new schools at vastly inflated costs – then siphoned off the excess money to fund militant operations.

Militants seeking donations often come during the hajj pilgrimage – "a major security loophole since pilgrims often travel with large amounts of cash and the Saudis cannot refuse them entry into Saudi Arabia". Even a small donation can go far: LeT operates on a budget of just $5.25m (£3.25m) a year, according to American estimates.

Saudi officials are often painted as reluctant partners. Clinton complained of the "ongoing challenge to persuade Saudi officials to treat terrorist funds emanating from Saudi Arabia as a strategic priority".

A couple of footnotes on the Goose that Lays the Golden Eggs

MoD drawn into Saudi deal inquiry

TELEGRAPH, August 14

The Ministry of Defence will face questions from the Serious Fraud Office about what it knew of alleged illegal payments made by defence group EADS to smooth the passage of a £2bn contract in Saudi Arabia.

U.S. Arms Sales Make Up Most of Global Market

August 27, 2012 1:03 pm

WASHINGTON -- Weapons sales by the United States tripled in 2011 to a record high, driven by major arms sales to Persian Gulf allies concerned about Iran's regional ambitions, according to a new study for Congress.

Overseas weapons sales by the United States totaled $66.3 billion last year, or more than three-quarters of the global arms market, valued at $85.3 billion in 2011. Russia was a distant second, with $4.8 billion in deals.

The American weapons sales total was an "extraordinary increase" over the $21.4 billion in deals for 2010, the study found, and was the largest single-year sales total in the history of United States arms exports. The previous high was in fiscal year 2009, when American weapons sales overseas totaled nearly $31 billion.

A worldwide economic decline had suppressed arms sales over recent years. But increasing tensions with Iran drove a set of Persian Gulf nations -- Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Oman -- to purchase American weapons at record levels.

And another angle,

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