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ON THE MESSY OPTICS OF THE ‘COALITION TO COUNTER ISIL’

ON THE MESSY OPTICS OF THE ‘COALITION TO COUNTER ISIL’
By Michael S. Smith II and Ronald Sandee

During a recent Congressional hearing, former DIA Director LtGen Michael T. Flynn, USA (Ret) shared his assessment that, as the US confronts jihadist groups like the Islamic State, a policy of relying on partnerships with states that have aided terrorist groups could prove counterproductive. Although nonspecific, this was a critique of the contemporary national security strategy which expands America’s reliance on counterterrorism-focused partnerships with Gulf States that have for decades served as the chief sources of financial support for jihadist groups designated foreign terrorist organizations by the US. Indeed, the recent political changes in the foremost influential of these countries, Saudi Arabia, highlight why America’s national security managers should view these partnerships with cautious optimism. As the Kingdom’s new leader played a central role in his country’s sponsorship of the Global Jihad movement, policymakers in Washington should carefully assess whether the optics of America’s counterterrorism partnership with Saudi Arabia may serve to undermine the US-led effort to roll back DA’ISH’s influence capabilities. For, in the regions where DA’ISH is expanding its membership, perceptions matter more than facts.

In recent years, Qatar, which is also among the so-called “Coalition to Counter-ISIL” member states, has been the most aggressive supporter of jihadis who overtly proclaim their aspirations to destroy US influence capabilities in the Middle East and beyond. However, like other Gulf States, it has not come close to matching the direct and indirect support for the “vanguards” of the Global Jihad movement furnished by Saudi Arabia.

That the current US strategy to combat DA’ISH entails the objective of securing support from Saudi Arabia for efforts to contain threats emanating from the most visible manifestation of the Global Jihad movement — the “caliphate” established by DA’ISH — is indeed ironic.

Yet more ironic is that, as the US began ramping up its reliance on counterterrorism partnerships with Gulf States, the man who previously served as Saudi Arabia’s chief facilitator of financial aid to jihad theaters, in which the likes of al-Qa’ida emerged and grew their ranks, became king. Indeed, “charities” like Third World Relief Agency (TWRA) that received massive donations from the Saudi Royal Family and other donors in the Kingdom — money moved to them by then Prince, now King Salman — funneled large amounts of money to al-Qa’ida, the progenitor of the group that calls itself the Islamic State.

Granted, it did not take long for jihadis like Usama bin Laden to bite the hands that had fed their networks early on. As the Saudis became more cautious about their support for “victims” of international crises such as the ones fueled by Saudi money that emerged in Afghanistan and later in Bosnia, bin Laden, who was a preferred recipient of Saudi aid during the Afghan Jihad, rebuked the Kingdom in an August 1995 message titled “The Bosnia Tragedy and the Treason of the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques.” The Kingdom also became a top target of al-Qa’ida.

Nevertheless, enterprises like al-Qa’ida probably could not have achieved the staying power that endures to this day were it not for the support doled out by the Saudis to bolster the militant and social “activism” of jihadist groups in places like Afghanistan and Bosnia during the 1980s and 1990s.

In his book Jihad in Saudi Arabia: Violence and Pan-Islamism since 1979 (2010), terrorism expert Thomas Hegghammer provides a detailed picture of the Kingdom’s ill-fated support for “charities” established to support fighters active in various jihad theaters. Regarding the Kingdom’s aid to jihadist elements active in Bosnia — the newest jihad theater that emerged following the conclusion of the jihad against the Soviets in Afghanistan and the establishment of al-Qa’ida — Dr. Hegghammer provided the following observations:

The official Saudi support for the Bosnian cause followed a tried and tested pattern. Saudi Arabia used the OIC to rally support for the Bosnian cause, and to push for UN sanctions against Serbia and a lifting of the arms embargo on Bosnia. The kingdom also urged its American ally to get more directly involved in the defence of the Muslims in Bosnia. The next step was the establishment of a fundraising committee chaired by Prince Salman. On 5 June 1992, the government set up the ‘High Committee for Fundraising to the Muslims of Bosnia-Herzegovina’ which incorporated a number of local branches known as ‘People’s Committees’.

The Saudi government also ran a sustained media campaign to raise funds and public awareness about Bosnia … Many of the symbolic displays of Islamic solidarity used during the Afghan jihad were repeated. The kingdom sponsored pilgrimage travel and organized Id celebrations for Bosnian Muslims, just as it had done for Afghan refugees during the 1980s. … Several Saudis and veteran expatriates interviewed by this author have insisted that the Bosnian jihad was even more visible in the public sphere than the Afghan jihad had been in the 1980s.

A good measure of the scope and impact of the media campaign is the amount of money raised for the Bosnian cause. By its own figures, the High Commission had collected an astonishing SAR 1.4 Billion (US$373 million) from public and private donors between 1992 and 1997. No other international cause has ever solicited a similar level of popular Saudi donations in such a short space of time. By comparison, Saudi donations to the Popular Committee for Palestine during the entire fourteen-year period from 1978 to 1991 amounted to a ‘mere’ SAR 850 million (US$227 million). The bidding game between the state and the Sahwa had brought popular pan-Islamist fervour to unprecedented heights. As a former Arab fighter in Bosnia later said, ‘all of Saudi Arabia, starting with the government, the religious scholars, and the ordinary people, was on the side of driving the youths towards jihad in Bosnia-Herzegovina.’

In an accompanying footnote concerning the money raised to support the Bosnian jihad, Dr. Hegghammer explains, “The Saudi figures are credible because a 2003 German Police Investigation documented that Prince Salman transferred a total of over US$120 million to the Austrian bank account of the Third World Relief Agency between July 1992 and November 1995; see Federal Office of Criminal Investigation, Expert Report Concerning the Area Financial Investigation, 28 August 2003.”

In fact, however, the last of the 27 known transfers to TWRA made by Prince Salman occurred on 11 July 1995. As noted above, a month later, bin Laden issued a statement in which he excoriated the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia for scaling back its support for the jihad in Bosnia. (It seems Dr. Hegghammer overlooked the order of the placement of the month and day in the format used to document the final transaction date concerning transfers made by Prince Salman.)

An English-language translation of the report referenced by Dr. Hegghammer has been published by The New York Times. A copy of the original German-Language report and English-language translations of the spreadsheets mentioned therein are available from Kronos Advisory upon request.

In the report, German investigators identified Prince Salman as “a member of the Saudi Royal Family and Governor of the Province surrounding Riyadh/Saudi Arabia.” Continuing, they noted “He is the founder of the ‘Saudi High Commission for Aid to Bosnia,’ which is supported by King Fahd, among others.”

The report reveals that Prince Salman made 27 wire transfers, totaling $120,447,930.13, to TWRA. German investigators also highlight that TWRA was by no means engaged in charitable activities alone.

Based in Vienna, TWRA served as a slush fund for the Bosnian government. As noted in the report, aside from being used to help the Bosnian government circumvent arms embargoes, TWRA also was used to move millions of dollars to a close associate of Usama bin Laden, Wa’el Julaidan.

Julaidan was among al-Qa’ida’s founding members. In al-Qa’ida’s internal documents, he is referred to as Abu Hasan al-Madani.

Above: Minutes from the meetings held to organize the group now known as al-Qa’ida, which list Julaidan (aka Abu Hasan al-Madani) as a participant (a translation that leverages the translation contained in Peter Bergen’s book The Osama bin Laden I know is provided below)

The report reveals Julaidan was connected with six large transactions uncovered in the investigation of TWRA’s activities. Concerning these transactions, investigators noted the following: “Among them were two transfers to the account of the TWRA with amounts of 3,999,998.55 USD and 1,999,987.75 USD. Also listed were four transfers from the aforementioned account to account number 573301587 of Bank Austria in Vienna to the amount of 7,058,973.20 USD. Mentioned in all four transfers from the account of the TWRA are among other things ‘Debt repayment Hasan Cengic.’”

The report notes Hasan Cengic was made an authorized signatory of TWRA’s banking interests in June 1993. Investigators advised Cengic was believed to be an imam employed by the Zagreb mosque and a co-founder of SDA, the party of the President of Bosnia-Herzegovina Alija Izetbegovic. The report fails to mention he was also the Iranian regime’s point man in Bosnia, and that he served as the Deputy Minister of Defense for the Bosnian Republic and in charge of procurement (Read embezzlement).

The report notes Cengic was part of a delegation that visited the Middle East in October 1992. The section of the English-language translation of the report covering records concerning this trip explained [corrections added] that the purpose of the trip was “apparently to organize financial support as political and humanitarian aid for the Muslims of Bosnia and Herzegovina in the Arab region. There were, among other things, discussions with and receptions by various members of the Saudi Royal Family, such as Konig Fehd ibn ABDULAZIS [King Fahd ibn Abdulaziz], the Defendant [Defense] Minister, the Governor of the Province Mecca, Prince Selman [alternatively Salman] ibn ABDULAZIZ and the President of the United Arab Emirates.”

Records concerning the delegation’s activities reviewed by investigators included a letter addressed to Prince Salman that contained a request for $1 Billion USD, and which stated an installment of $400 Million USD was urgently needed.

The minutes concerning the trip are signed by Dr. Elfatih Ali Hassanein and Mustafa Ceric, who was identified in the report as the “main imam” of the Zagreb mosque. Mustafa Ceric is an associate of Muslim Brotherhood thought leader Yusuf al-Qaradawi, who is banned from entering the US and several European countries, and was the subject of a December 2014 INTERPOL Red Notice. Ceric is an influential figure in the Brotherhood’s European spheres. He received his PhD from the University of Chicago, and for several years was the chief imam for the Bosnian Community in St Louis.

Elfatih Ali Hassanein became the chairman of TWRA, and his residence in Vienna was listed as the entity’s headquarters. Born in Sudan, his brother Sukorno Ali Hassanein served as Treasurer.

The report notes the Hassanein brothers were also active on the management board of the “Islamic Relief Organization” in Vienna, an entity that was part of the International Islamic Relief Organization (IIRO). Based in Saudi Arabia, IIRO was an offshoot of the Muslim World League. (A heavily redacted Treasury Department report concerning IIRO marked TOP SECRET that was provided to plaintiffs’ attorneys seeking judgments against entities responsible for assisting al-Qa’ida with its financial interests is available here.)

Earlier in the report, citing information provided by the US, German investigators noted bin Laden’s associate Wa’el Julaidan had previously served as the general secretary of the Muslim World League and the Rabita Trust in Pakistan. Prior to helping bin Laden organize al-Qa’ida, while living in Tucson, Arizona, Julaidan served as the president of the Islamic Center of Tucson. He left the US to join the Afghan Jihad in 1986. Julaidan’s name appears on an internal al-Qa’ida document known as the “Golden Chain” (See this article’s lead image), which is assessed to be one of two things: Either a list of wealthy and influential individuals whom al-Qa’ida founders like Julaidan and bin Laden planned to solicit money from, or a list of the organization’s actual donors.

In 2002, the US Treasury Department and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia jointly designated Wa’el Julaidan a terrorist. Interestingly, however, in August 2014, the UN Security Council al-Qa’ida Sanctions Committee announced it had deleted Julaidan’s name from its sanctions list. Further, sources indicate he may presently be operating a local charity in Medina.

An English-language translation of the conclusion of the German investigative report concerning the financial activities of TWRA is provided below. It highlights one of two realities: From July 1992 thru July 1995, Prince Salman, who is now king of Saudi Arabia, either knowingly or unwittingly made 27 wire transfers, totaling more than $120 Million, to a charity that functioned both as a front to help the Bosnian government circumvent arms embargoes and as a money laundering vehicle used by one of al-Qa’ida’s founders.

This scenario is not unique to TWRA. Members of the Saudi Royal Family and other wealthy individuals in Saudi Arabia donated large sums to entities such as foreign branches of IIRO, al-Haramain, and the Afghan Support Committee.

Much of that money was used to advance Wahhabist interests in jihad theaters where groups like al-Qa’ida were established. Elsewhere, such as in Sudan, these donations were used to dissuade leaders of unstable states from deepening relations with the Iranian regime at the expense of Saudi interests in their respective regions of the world.

Without Saudi support for jihadist elements active in those conflict zones and unstable states, the terrorist networks that were created and expanded therein probably could not have grown to pose such severe challenges for the global security environment. It is therefore ironic that a government which is endeavoring to lead the effort to hold such terrorist enterprises accountable for their crimes has yet to demand the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia acknowledge and account for the mistakes it made by, in the very least, accommodating the growths of these elements — mistakes that Saudis and Americans alike continue to pay for today.

With respect to the notion that, to defeat DA’ISH, the US needs help from the Saudis more than the Saudis need help from the US, anyone who believes this is ignoring realities on the ground in the Middle East.

The erection of a wall to thwart DA’ISH’s ambitions to grow its ranks within the Kingdom is a sign of the desperate situation the Saudi Royal Family has found itself in. The same can be said for its designation of the Muslim Brotherhood as a terrorist enterprise in 2014. (Also ironic is that US policymakers avoided treating the Brotherhood as an adversarial enterprise because America’s Saudi “partners” had been among MB’s top sponsors since the first half of the 20th Century. Whether Prince Salman intends to revise this designation remains to be seen.)

The shaky situation the Kingdom now finds itself in is a result of the active and passive forms of state sponsorship evident in the Kingdom’s support of the Global Jihad movement. It is very unlikely a wall will serve to limit DA’ISH’s capacity to grow its ranks inside Saudi Arabia. The bottom line is the Wahhabist ideology promoted by the House of Saud is not remarkably different than the Salafiyya Jihadiyya ideology that informs the agendas of both al-Qa’ida and DA’ISH. And one of the very few significant differences between the agendas of these groups is that DA’ISH is much more overt with its advocacy of the practice of takfir as a necessary tool for those striving to “restore” the caliphate — meaning that all Muslims who do not join its ranks are considered apostates, thus priority targets.

EXPERT REPORT CONCERNING THE AREA
– FINANCIAL INVESTIGATIONS –

relating to the judicial assistance request, ref. no. INV/10289/T09-PH (245), dated 8/27/2002 of the
“Office of the Prosecutor” (OTP) of the International Court of Criminal Justice for the
former Yugoslavia relating to the “Third World Relief Agency” (TWRA),
Vienna/Austria

Conclusions / Analysis

The information acquired during the course of the financial investigations shows that the “Third World Relief Agency (TWRA)” headquartered in Vienna under the cover of humanitarian aid or humanitarian aid organization, to a large degree served as a financial support to the political leadership of Bosnia and their goals. Based on available documents, a close link between the political leadership of Bosnia and the board or the chairman Dr. Elfaith Ali HASSANEIN can be established. Since 01/01/1994, the president of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Alija IZETBEGOVICH, personally has to approve payments exceeding USD 500,000.00. According to the available receipts, higher cash amounts were given to Alija Izetbegovich by Elfaith Ali HASSANEIN. Hasan CENGIC, Imam of the Mosque in Zagreb and founding member of the SDA, the party of Alija IZETBEGOVIC, was a signatory on the account no 513-64476 at theErsten Österreichischen Spar-Cassefrom 06/23/1993 onwards. Thus the possibility for the political leadership of Bosnia to directly influence the use of the financial means of the TWRA is substantiated.

The financial means had an enormous potential. The USD account no 513-64476 of the “Ersten Österreichischen Spar-Casse” in Vienna was used by the individuals in charge as a pure “donations account” and during the period examined, inflows and outflows amounting to over USD 200 million each were identified. This includes outgoing cash payments amounting to over USD 80 million, whose intended purpose is not known.

Based on the above results, a massive financial support of the TWRA by individuals and organizations from the Arabian region is ascertained. The extent of this financial support is verified for example by the transfers in favor of the TWRA by “Prince Selman Bin ABDUL-AZIZ” as a member of the Saudi ruling house. The deposits by this person or organizations, which can be linked to him, amount to more than half of all deposits made onto the respective account of the TWRA.

A basis for these payments is given by the above described protocol of the “International Conference for the Protection of Human Rights in Bosnia and Herzegovina” on 10/19/1992. In this protocol, it is put forward on several receptions and among others on the visit at Prince ADBUL-AZIZ’s, that aid for the Muslims in Bosnia ought to be provided in every respect. Such a fast and concrete aid in every respect was, according to this protocol, also promised by the defense minister of Saudi Arabia “Prince Sultan ibn ABDULAZIZ”. To what extent the donors could assume a pure humanitarian use of the financial means is thus at least questionable.

In fact, based on information available to-date, there are heavy doubts as to whether the financial means of the TWRA were exclusively used for humanitarian aid. This is a results, amongst others, from payments between the TWRA and the Fa. Tecna Corp., Rawalpindi, Pakistan listed in item 2.3.2.4.2. The catalogue in form of a facsimile offered various military equipment. A corresponding transfer amounting to USD 3,513,281.82 was made about six weeks later to the account of the Fa. Tecna Corp. listed in the catalogue, albeit with the posting text “For wheat to Albania for Bosnian refugees”. A humanitarian background of this payment appears dubious given the available information.

Based on the presented information from the available documents regarding weapons deliveries and weapons dealings, it is suspected that the political leadership of Bosnia was aware of them and did not see nor make a difference between humanitarian and military aid. This is corroborated by the above mentioned statement of Amer CVIKO during his interrogation as a defendant on 02/09/1995. A corresponding use of the humanitarian aid organization TWRA as a cover for these kinds of dealings and deliveries is thus regarded as probable.

The financial investigations on the TWRA undertaken so far expose a far-reaching network of individuals, organizations and companies, which indicates intensive and frequent contacts in the entire Islamic world. An example to be mentioned is the identified link between Hasan CENGIC to the individual JELAIDAN. The identified transactions amounting to several million USD suggest a close or intensive relation. The name Hasan CENGIC is listed in four transactions amounting to a total of USD 7,058,973.20 relating to “repayment of debt” in the posting text, where one transaction amounting to almost USD 4 million was returned. JELAIDAN has according to unconfirmed information been described as a donations collector of AL-QAEDA, and partner and aide to BIN LADEN. The listed transactions suggest at least a personal contact between these individuals.

Furthermore, the TWRA apparently made use of a worldwide network of bank accounts. Accordingly, accounts of the TWRA have also been identified in Austria, Belgium, Malaysia, Croatia and Turkey. This suggests an internationally acting organizational structure, which enables to be very flexible and financially active worldwide.

The above information illustrate that the TWRA was of great importance for the financial and logistical support of the political leadership of Bosnia. According to the understanding gained from the financial investigations it can further be assumed that the TWRA enabled to a great degree the political leadership of Bosnia to pursue its goals.

The presented results are sent to the OTP with the request for examination regarding the accusations raised there.

TRANSLATION
Tareekh Osama, File 54, images 127 and 127a

In the name of Allah, the most Compassionate, the most Merciful.

The brothers mentioned attended the Sheikh (bin Laden’s) house. Most of the discussion was about choosing an Advisory Council. [There is also] a summary of what happened Maktab al-Khidamat (the Services Office). The meeting was held for two days in a row and the Advisory Council [met] on Friday, with the following brothers:

1. Sheikh Usama
2. Abu Ubaidah al-Banshiri
3. Abu Burhan
4. Sheikh Tamim
5. Abu Hajer
6. Abu Anas
7. Abu al Hasan al-Madani
8. Abu al Hasan al-Makki
9. Abu Ibrahim

The meeting [was] summarized in two points by the Sheikh [bin Laden]:

-The complaints
-Mismanagement and bad treatment in Maktab al-Khidamat

The Sheikh decided to engage the Council in making a change. The meetings stayed from sunset until two at night. And on Saturday morning, 8/20/1988, the aforementioned brothers came and started the meeting and the military work was suggested to be divided in two parts, according to duration:

-Limited duration: They will go to Sada Camp, then get trained and distributed on Afghan fronts, under supervision of the military council.
-Open [ended] duration: They enter a testing camp and the best brothers of them are chosen to enter al-Qa’ida al-Askariya (the Military Base).

Al-Qa’ida is basically an organized Islamic faction; its goal will be to lift the word of Allah, to make his religion victorious.

Requirements to enter al-Qa’ida:

-Members of open duration (an apparent reference to an open-ended commitment)
-Listening and obedient
-Good manners
-Referred from a trusted side
-Obeying status and instructions of al-Qa’ida

The Bayat (Pledge) to join al-Qa’ida:

The pledge of Allah and his covenant is upon me, to listen and obey the superiors, who are doing this work, in energy, early-rising, difficulty, and easiness, and for his superiority upon us, so that the word of Allah will be the highest, and His religion victorious.

The meeting ended on the evening of Saturday, 8/20. Work of al-Qa’ida commenced on 9/10/1988, with a group of fifteen brothers, including nine administrative brothers.

NOTE: The above translation leverages the translation contained in Peter L. Bergen, The Osama bin Laden I know (2006).

 

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