Kuwait pledges to do more to curb ISIS financing
In a rare public acknowledgement, Kuwaiti officials conceded they need to do more to stop the Islamic State (ISIS) from obtaining funding from within Kuwait’s borders.
At a meeting of the Counter-ISIL Finance Group (CIFG) in Kuwait City, Kuwaiti Deputy Foreign Minister Khaled al-Jarallah said his country had “a lot to do, though we are satisfied with what we have done so far”. He added that Kuwait was prepared to cooperate with the international community fighting terrorism.
“ISIL” is another acronymn for the Islamic State.
Jarallah stressed that Kuwait “has come a long way in introducing legislation that controls the collection of (charity) donations”, a method believed to be exploited by terrorist group sympathisers.
The issue of ISIS in Kuwait goes beyond funding as the US-led coalition offensive against ISIS in Iraq could result in a blowback in the Arab Gulf state.
“We are fully prepared and ready to deal with any negative developments in the region, including the consequences of what is happening in Mosul, which we hope to see liberated,” Jarallah said.
CIFG was launched in March 2015 by Italy, Saudi Arabia and the United States to coordinate efforts to combat ISIS’s financial activities.
There has been mounting criticism from the United States that Kuwait and fellow Gulf Arab state Qatar needed to do more to tackle funding for ISIS, which controls land in Iraq and Syria and declared war on Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) members.
Earlier this year, leaked e-mail messages attributed to US presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton while she was secretary of State accused Saudi Arabia and Qatar of clandestinely supporting ISIS and other radical groups. In June, on the campaign trail in Ohio, Clinton stated: “It is long past time for the Saudis, Qataris and Kuwaitis and others to stop their citizens from funding extremist organisations.”
This resulted in an angry rebuke from Arab Gulf countries, with Saudi Arabia stressing through one of its missions that: “Accusations levelled against the kingdom of being lax or of supporting extremism fail to recognise the kingdom’s leadership role in combating terrorism.”
It added that the kingdom in the last two years had been targeted by 26 terrorist attacks and that it was a top priority for it to neutralise the “men, the money and the mindset that [promotes] extremism, especially violent extremism”.
A recent report in Jane’s Defence Weekly said Qatar supports several “Islamist rebel forces”, including Ahrar al-Sham. The tiny Gulf nation is also one of the biggest supporters of the global Muslim Brotherhood movement, which is banned in many countries, including Saudi Arabia and Egypt.
The fight against ISIS is seen as a matter of survival for the GCC, as 2015 saw the terrorist group make its presence known throughout the alliance.
In Saudi Arabia, ISIS launched attacks to stir sectarian strife within the majority Sunni kingdom. This resulted in a crackdown by Saudi authorities reminiscent of their pursuit of al-Qaeda more than ten years ago.
By the middle of last year, Saudi security authorities said they had thwarted operations sponsored by ISIS and arrested more than 400 individuals allegedly affiliated with it.
In September 2015, a Kuwaiti court sentenced seven men to death for their roles in a Shia mosque bombing claimed by ISIS, the bloodiest attack in the Gulf state’s history.
A total of 29 defendants, seven of them women, have been on trial on charges of helping a Saudi suicide bomber carry out a June 26th attack that killed 26 Shia worshippers and wounded 227.
US Assistant Treasury Secretary for Terrorist Financing Daniel Glaser in September praised Saudi Arabia for its cooperation against terror funding, calling the kingdom, “a very willing and capable partner”.