Wealthy Gulf states 'top source' for terror funds
Private individuals in Saudi Arabia and other Gulf states friendly to the US are the chief source of funding for al-Qa'ida, the Taliban and other terrorist groups, according to leaked US diplomatic cables published by WikiLeaks.
Despite extensive efforts to limit the distribution of funds to extremists from the Middle East, the documents show deep frustration in Washington with the level of co-operation from governments in the region.
"It has been an ongoing challenge to persuade Saudi officials to treat terrorist financing emanating from Saudi Arabia as a strategic priority," read a cable from Hillary Clinton, the US Secretary of State, dated December 30, 2009.
"Donors in Saudi Arabia constitute the most significant source of funding to Sunni terrorist groups worldwide," added the document.
The Saudis have recognised that they have trouble policing the annual pilgrimage to Mecca, when it is estimated that millions of dollars are raised for militants who send agents into the oil-rich kingdom under the cover of Muslim pilgrims.
The Saudi interior ministry co-operated when terrorist funding was brought to its attention, but remained "almost completely dependent on the CIA to provide analytic support and direction for its counterterrorism operations", said a cable from the US embassy in Riyadh. "As such, our success against terrorist financing in the kingdom remains directly tied to our ability to provide actionable intelligence to our Saudi counterparts."
There was no accusation of official Saudi government support of militants.
The Clinton memo credited the Saudis with "significant progress" under US pressure to deal with the issue, especially disrupting al-Qa'ida's finance channels.
However, it claimed that "Riyadh has taken only limited action" to interrupt the flow of money to the Taliban and associated groups which have launched attacks in Afghanistan, Pakistan and India.
It believed that private funds from Arab states were the Taliban's greatest source of income.
The tiny kingdom of Qatar was singled out as the "worst in the region" in terms of its co-operation with the US.
Mrs Clinton said the key challenge for US diplomacy was to create the "political will" in the Gulf to clamp down on terrorist financing. (© Daily Telegraph, London)