Merchant of Death
Money, Guns, Planes, and the Man Who Makes War Possible

Blood from Stones

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Saudi Arabia's Terror Finance Problem
There is little willingness to tackle the Saudis anymore on the issue of cracking down on terror finance. Intelligence services here and in Europe know most of the money for the mujahadeed in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere still come from wealthy donors in the Kingdom.

Only a handful of officials, however, dare to say so publicly anymore for fear of ruffling the feathers of those who keep our gas prices above $3 a gallon and will not allow a Bible, Torah or any other non-Muslim book into their country.

The exception has been Stuart Levy, the Treasury undersecretary for terror finance issues, who recently and publicly took on the Saudis in little-noted Congressional testimony. Fortunately, the LA Times did notice.

"Saudi Arabia today remains the location where more money is going to terrorism, to Sunni terror groups and to the Taliban than any other place in the world," Levey said under questioning.

U.S. officials have previously identified Saudi Arabia as a major source of funding for extremism. But Levey's comments were notable because, although reluctant to directly criticize a close U.S. ally, he acknowledged frustration with administration efforts to persuade the Saudis and others to act.

"We continue to face significant challenges as we move forward with these efforts, including fostering and maintaining the political will among other governments to take effective and consistent action," Levey said, later adding: "Our work is not nearly complete."

One of the more interesting parts of the story, however, is not just what Stuart said, but the Saudi recognition that he was right, and that, in essence, the Saudi government has repeatedly lied to the U.S. government over the steps the Kingdom has taken to crack down.

For example more than two years ago, the Saudis assured then-Rep. Sue Kelly (R-NY) that the Kingdom, as promised in 2003, had set up a financial intelligence unit and a commission to oversee the financial dealings of charities, many which have had ties to funding terrorist activities.

Now, Saudi spokesman Nail Jubeir (brother of ambassador Adel Jubeir) "confirmed that Saudi Arabia has not set up the financial intelligence unit or charity commission, but said it was cracking down on the financiers of terrorism in other ways, such as making it illegal for anyone to send money outside the kingdom "without going through official government channels."'

An interesting look at how worthwhile the written assurances from the royal family are, as they had been given repeatedly on those two precise issues.

But the larger issue, to me, is the one expressed by Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore), the Saudi failures mean that Americans who pay more than $100 a barrel for oil are in effect bankrolling extremism because wealthy Saudis "back-door" their profits into charities that fund extremist causes.

There it is in a nutshell. Our money pays for them to pay those who want to kill us. The irony is hard to laugh at.

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