Friday, June 13, 2003

In today's New York Times there's an update of last night's story on Saudi "condemnation" of terrorism. James Dao writes:

WASHINGTON, June 12 — The government of Saudi Arabia said today that it has fired several hundred Islamic clerics and suspended more than 1,000 others for preaching intolerance, part of a broader campaign against terrorism. At a news conference held one month to the day after terrorist bombs killed more than 30 people in Riyadh, the Saudi government also announced that it has implemented new regulations intended to prevent the flow of Saudi money to terrorist groups overseas.

Saying that last month's bombings had "galvanized" his government, Adel al-Jubeir, a senior foreign policy adviser to Crown Prince Abdullah, asserted that Saudi Arabia has done more than any other country to ensure that its money does not "get used for evil." "We will go after those who use religion to justify such behavior, which is alien to any faith, in particular our Islamic faith," Mr. Jubeir said at the Saudi Embassy here. . . .

Well, if it were true, this would be great -- but:
Critics scoffed at the Saudi Embassy's assertions that they had "closed the door on terrorist financing and money laundering." William F. Wechsler, a National Security Council official in the Clinton administration who has studied terrorist financing, said the Saudis had revealed few details of their new regulations, making it difficult to evaluate their effectiveness. "Let's see the laws and regulations, and let others evaluate them, not take the Saudis word for it," he said in a telephone interview. "Let's see that they are meeting international standards. Let's see the enforcement."

These new rules still will not prevent Saudis from financing Hamas (again, seemingly a double standard applied against Israelis).
. . . .But Mr. Jubeir acknowledged that there were significant loopholes in the rules. For example, the Saudi regulations will not apply to foreign-based charities that raise funds in the kingdom.

The rules also will not prevent Saudi money from reaching schools, hospitals and other community institutions run by the political wing of Hamas, the Gaza-based group that has taken responsibility for a devastating suicide bombing in Jerusalem on Wednesday. But Mr. Wechsler and other terrorism experts said it was impossible to separate Hamas' political wing from its military operations. "It's a fantasy to think you can just give money to the charitable wing and somehow you are not helping a terrorist organization," Mr. Wechsler said.

The Israeli government also contends that Palestinian documents seized by its troops during raids in the West Bank last year provide evidence that organizations run by senior Saudi officials have contributed large sums of money to Hamas and to the families of suicide bombers.

The Saudi government does contribute aid to the families of Palestinian suicide bombers, Mr. Jubeir said, but he argued that such assistance did not incite terrorist acts. "If the family's in need, they will get the money," he said. "We're not saying, `Go blow yourself up and we'll give you money.' "

So much for firing intolerant clerics.

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