Saudi-US initiative targets terrorist financial networks

Sunday 28/05/2017
A step ahead. US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson (L) exchanges a memorandum of understanding on countering the financing of terrorism with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Nayef bin Abdulaziz in Riyadh, on May 21. (AFP)

London - Anew Saudi-US initiative is designed to tackle terror financing and cut off the lifeline terror or­ganisations depend on to carry out deadly operations.
During US President Donald Trump’s visit to Riyadh, a memo­randum of understanding, signed by Saudi Crown Prince Moham­med bin Nayef bin Abdulaziz and US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, will involve the United States and Saudi Arabia collaborating with other Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) members to create the Ter­rorist Financing Targeting Centre (TFTC).
“This new [TFTC] will enhance existing tools and cooperation with partners in the Gulf to forcefully ad­dress evolving threats,” US Treas­ury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said in a statement.
“Treasury will offer the vast ex­pertise of our Office of Terrorism and Financial Intelligence to this creative new effort. We will co-chair the TFTC with Saudi Arabia and will work collaboratively with the countries of the [GCC] to coun­ter these global terror networks.”
The US Treasury Department said the initiative aims to “identify, track and share information regard­ing terrorist financial networks.”
The United States has been working with GCC members for more than a decade on curbing terror financing and that effort has stemmed some of the terror­ist organisations’ revenue streams. However, the latest initiative for­malises, codifies and plans to inten­sify efforts between the GCC and Washington.
Tackling terrorism was a promi­nent theme during Trump’s visit to the region to participate in the Arab Islamic American Summit, with the call for joint action against ter­ror organisations featuring heavily in his speech to Muslim leaders in Riyadh.
“As we deny terrorist organisa­tions control of territory and popu­lations, we must also strip them of their access to funds,” Trump said. “We must cut off the financial chan­nels that let ISIS [the Islamic State] sell oil, let extremists pay their fighters and help terrorists smuggle their reinforcements.”
Trump applauded the GCC coun­tries for “blocking funders from using their countries as a financial base for terror and designating Hez­bollah as a terrorist organisation last year.”
Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, in a speech at the sum­mit, said that “we confirm our de­termination to wipe out [ISIS] … and other terrorist organisations, regardless of their religion, sect or thought.
“This is why we have formed the Islamic Military Alliance to Fight Terrorism, considered a pioneering step to besiege terrorism.”
A report in January by the Wash­ington-based Foundation for the Defense of Democracies highlight­ed that, on the anniversary of 9/11 terror attacks in the United States, Qatar in 2014 signed a communiqué pledging to counter the financing of ISIS and other violent extremist groups.
The declaration included a vow to end impunity and bring culprits to justice. However, the report said, less than a month later US- and UN-designated terror financiers in the Gulf state “have not been act­ed against,” adding that financiers “continue to enjoy such impunity in Qatar.”
Kuwaiti officials last October con­ceded that they needed to do more to stop ISIS from obtaining funding from within Kuwait’s borders.

With the new anti-financing initi­ative, the GCC and the United States plan to work to neutralise “new and evolving terrorist networks in­cluding ISIS, al-Qaeda, Hezbollah, Lashkar-e-Taiba, the Taliban and the Haqqani Network,” as well as threats emanating from “Iran, the Assad regime and the situation in Yemen.”