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Wikileaks: Saudis, Gulf States Big Funders of Terror Groups

Despite claims that it is one of the West's key allies in fighting Islamic terror, Saudi Arabia provides funds for the world's worst terror groups.
By David Lev
First Publish: 12/6/2010, 2:06 PM / Last Update: 12/6/2010, 2:26 PM

Despite its ostensible position as one of the West's key allies in fighting Islamic terror, it turns out, via Wikileaks, that Saudi Arabia is the source of the lion's share of funding for the world's worst terror groups – including Al Qaeda, the Taliban, Lashkar-e-Taiba, Hamas, and others.

Much of the rest of the money these organizations get comes from other Gulf states, including Qatar and Kuwait.  Saudi Arabia, along with other Gulf states, has expressed very little interest in changing the situation.

The information came to light in the latest round of documents released Sunday by Wikileaks. In their communiques to the State Department, U.S. embassies in Saudi Arabia and the Gulf states describe a situation in which wealthy private donors, often openly, lavishly support the same groups against whom Saudi Arabia claims to be fighting.

In a summary assessment dated December 30, 2009, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton writes, “Donors in Saudi Arabia constitute the most significant source of funding to Sunni terrorist groups worldwide. Saudi Arabia remains a critical financial support base for Al-Qaeda, the Taliban, LeT (Lashkar-e-Taiba), and other terrorist groups, including Hamas, which probably raise millions of dollars annually from Saudi sources.”  Much of the money is collected from Muslim pilgrims who come during the annual Ramadan pilgrimages, the memo said.

While the U.S. has pressured Riyadh to rein in the enthusiasm of Saudi citizens in donating to terror groups, Clinton wrote that the pressure had yielded only limited success. However, the document said, Qatar – recently chosen to host the World Cup soccer tournament in 2022 - and Kuwait have even worse records, with both countries, especially Qatar, resisting any U.S. persuasion to clamp down on terror group funding.

The Saudis have begun to deal with some forms of funding to Al-Qaeda; one Wikileaks cable praises Riyadh for arresting 40 members of a “charity” group that was funding Al-Qaeda, and for issuing a religious decree against supporting terror groups. However, Washington said that Riyadh was practically clueless when it came to dealing with money being funded to the Taliban.

In general, the documents state, Saudi Arabia “remains almost completely dependent on the CIA to provide analytic support and direction for its counterterrorism operation. As such, our success against terrorist financing in the kingdom remains directly tied to our ability to provide actionable intelligence to our Saudi counterparts,” leaving the U.S. to do the work of policing the Saudis and prompting them – often unsuccessfully – to fight the very terror groups that they fear are working to take over the kingdom.