Obama Admin Under Pressure for Lax Approach to Terror Financiers

Treasury Dept. pressed to cut off foreign funders of terror

Barack Obama, Tamim bin hamad

President Barack Obama shakes hands with Qatar Emir Sheik Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani / AP

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The Obama administration is facing criticism over what some lawmakers say is an overly permissive attitude toward terrorism financing by foreign nations, according to new congressional communication obtained by the Washington Free Beacon that presses U.S. officials to hold these nations accountable for enabling terror.

Congressional sources and experts accused the administration of going soft on Middle Eastern allies such as Qatar that are known to be chief financiers of global terrorism movements like al Qaeda and Hamas, according to conversations with sources.

The permissive environment has allowed these countries to continue receiving vast amounts of U.S. taxpayer aid while facilitating the transfer of money to rogue terror entities, some of which are currently designated by the United States as global terrorists, according to these sources.

Some Obama administration officials welcome Qatar’s role as an emissary to these terrorist groups, according to conversations described by sources to the Free Beacon.

In the latest bid to force the administration to crack down on this behavior, Sen. Mark Kirk (R., Ill.) petitioned the Treasury Department on Tuesday to adopt a more aggressive stance against Qatar’s terror financing, according to a letter sent to the administration and obtained by the Free Beacon.

Kirk is the chairman of the Senate Banking Subcommittee on National Security and International Trade and Finance, which has oversight jurisdiction on the Treasury Department's efforts to combat terrorist financing.

Qatar, which is home to a major U.S. military base, has benefited from billions of dollars in arms deals with America. Yet it also enjoys close relations with Hamas, which has received billions of dollars in support from Qatar.

Kirk is pressing the administration to use its leverage to force Qatar to break ties with its global terror allies. The senator also is requesting that the administration outline the steps it has taken to stop this behavior.

"For over a decade, the Qatari government has displayed leniency and negligence toward individuals who support and finance ISIS, its predecessor Al-Qaeda in Iraq (AQI), and other terrorist groups," Kirk wrote in a letter to Treasury Secretary Jack Lew. "If Qatar’s permissiveness continues, it will further fuel terrorism both regionally and worldwide."

"I therefore urge the Administration to press the Qatari government to stop the operations of terrorism supporters and financiers within its territory, and to comply fully with" international agreements mandating that Qatar cut all ties with terror financiers, Kirk wrote.

"To this day, terrorist financiers—including those designated by the United States and the United Nations—continue to enjoy such impunity in Qatar," Kirk notes in the letter.

While the Obama administration has admitted Qatar continues to fund terrorism, critics such as Kirk maintain that officials have done little to rectify the situation.

David Cohen, former treasury undersecretary for terrorism and financial intelligence, acknowledged in a 2014 speech that at least two Qatari terror funders have yet to be prosecuted by the government.

Several other supporters of al Qaeda also have been designated as terrorists by the United States but appear to still be operating with immunity in Qatar, according to information disclosed by Kirk.

At least one of the individuals, Khalifa Muhammad Turki al-Subaiy, was caught raising money online as recently as April of this year.

"I am disturbed to see the Qatari Government has apparently taken no significant action against" these funders, Kirk wrote. "Indeed, both terrorist financiers reportedly remain at large."

"Unless the United States convinces all of our coalition partners, including Qatar, to do all they can to eliminate sources of terrorist financing, our collective efforts will continue to address the symptoms of international terrorism without effectively dealing with one of its root causes," Kirk wrote.

Jonathan Schanzer, a former terrorism finance analyst at the Treasury Department, told the Free Beacon that there are some U.S. officials who approve of Qatar’s actions.

"Remarkably, some officials have told me that they like having Qatar serve as an intermediary between the U.S. and jihadi groups," Schanzer said.

"Qatar has long used its hosting of crucial U.S. military facilities as a means to offset the fact that it is also host to terrorist figures from Hamas, the Taliban, and a range of jihadist groups in Syria," Schanzer explained. "Successive administrations have accepted this situation and refuse to demand that Doha change its policies. Similarly, successive administrations have refused to demand that Qatar bring known financiers to justice who have found shelter on Qatari soil."

Adam Kredo   Email Adam | Full Bio | RSS
Adam Kredo is senior writer reporting on national security and foreign policy matters for the Washington Free Beacon. An award-winning political reporter who has broken news from across the globe, Kredo’s work has been featured in the Wall Street Journal, the Weekly Standard, Commentary Magazine, the Drudge Report, and the Jerusalem Post, among many others. His Twitter handle is @Kredo0. His email address is kredo@freebeacon.com.

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