WASHINGTON - Private individuals in Saudi Arabia and other Gulf states friendly to the United States are the chief source of funding for Al Qaeda, the Taliban and other terrorist groups, according to leaked American diplomatic cables obtained by Wikileaks.
This latest batch of leaks will do little to improve US relations with its oil-rich allies in the Middle East and contradicts public statements by the Obama administration about the progress made in cutting off terrorist fund-raising.
"It has been an ongoing challenge to persuade Saudi officials to treat terrorist financing emanating from Saudi Arabia as a strategic priority," read a Dec 30, 2009 cable from US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
"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 cooperated 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 Qaeda's finance channels.
However, it claimed that "Riyadh has taken only limited action" to interrupt the flow of money to Taliban, Lashkar-e-Taiba 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.
Qatar, which is set to stage the 2022 World Cup, was singled out as the "worst in the region" in terms of its cooperation with the US. Its security services "have been hesitant to act against known terrorists" because they fear being seen too close to the US, the memo said.
Kuwait, which was saved from Saddam Hussein's invasion by US-led forces in 1991, was a "key transit point" for funds threatening stability in Pakistan and Afghanistan, according to the leaks. It dismissed US requests for help in limiting the activities of a charity as "draconian".
Mrs Clinton added that the key challenge for US diplomacy was to create the "political will" in the Gulf to clamp down on terrorist financing. THE DAILY TELEGRAPH
[Big deal. Like we only just realised this? Most of the 19 hijackers of 9/11 were Saudis. But Bush went looking for the terrorists in Iraq - where the oil is. Read "Hot, Flat and Crowded". People already knew that oil money was supporting terrorism against the US. Or should've known.]