While the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA) takes seriously the threat of terrorism within Saudi Arabia, it has been an ongoing challenge to persuade Saudi officials to treat terrorist financing emanating from Saudi Arabia as a strategic priority. Due in part to intense focus by the USG over the last several years, Saudi Arabia has begun to make important progress on this front and has responded to terrorist financing concerns raised by the United States through proactively investigating and detaining financial facilitators of concern. Still, donors in Saudi Arabia constitute the most significant source of funding to Sunni terrorist groups worldwide. Continued senior-level USG engagement is needed to build on initial efforts and encourage the Saudi government to take more steps to stem the flow of funds from Saudi Arabia-based sources to terrorists and extremists worldwide.
(S/NF) The USG engages regularly with the Saudi Government on terrorist financing. The establishment in 2008 of a Treasury attache office presence in Riyadh contributes to robust interaction and information sharing on the issue. Despite this presence, however, more needs to be done since Saudi Arabia remains a critical financial support base for al-Qa’ida, the Taliban, LeT, and other terrorist groups, including Hamas, which probably raise millions of dollars annually from Saudi sources, often during Hajj and Ramadan. In contrast to its increasingly aggressive efforts to disrupt al-Qa’ida’s access to funding from Saudi sources, Riyadh has taken only limited action to disrupt fundraising for the UN 1267-listed Taliban and LeT-groups that are also aligned with al-Qa’ida and focused on undermining stability in Afghanistan and Pakistan. (S/NF) Saudi Arabia has enacted important reforms to criminalize terrorist financing and restrict the overseas flow of funds from Saudi-based charities. However, these restrictions fail to include &multilateral organizations8 such as XXXXXXXXXXXX Intelligence suggests that these groups continue to send money overseas and, at times, fund extremism overseas. In 2002, the Saudi government promised to set up a &Charities Committee8 that would address this issue, but has yet to do so. The establishment of such a mechanism, however, is secondary to the primary U.S. goal of obtaining Saudi acknowledgement of the scope of this problem and a commitment to take decisive action.
(S/NF) Department note: The Department received post’s comments regarding embassy staffing at Riyadh and recommendations for enhancing bilateral cooperation (ref B). The Department agrees with post’s recommendation that the U.S. must reinforce, on a political level, the Saudi Arabia Government’s recent acknowledgement that terrorist groups other than al-Qa’ida are a threat both to it and to regional stability. The Department also supports post’s assessment that consistent engagement, including the exchange of actionable intelligence, by senior USG officials is paramount. We plan to discuss these issues with the SAG during upcoming senior-level USG visits.
Saudi Arabia talking points
(S/REL USA, SAU) We recognize your government’s efforts to disrupt al-Qa’ida networks in the Kingdom and we reaffirm our commitment to support the Saudi government in its actions on terror finance. We encourage your government to continue efforts against al-Qa’ida and stress the importance of sharing and acting on information related to terrorist financing. (S/REL USA, SAU) We note your concerns with fundraising in the Kingdom by al-Qa’ida and other terrorist groups and urge decisive action to enforce the UN 1267-mandated asset freeze against Taliban and LeT fundraising similar to Saudi efforts to enforce UN 1267 sanctions and take other appropriate action to target al-Qa’ida.
(S/REL USA, SAU) We underscore that the Taliban and LeT are aligned with al-Qa’ida and that your government’s support for disrupting the financing of these groups is critical to the stability of Afghanistan, Pakistan and the broader Central and South Asian region. We emphasize the need to prevent the Taliban from using the cover of reconciliation talks to raise funds. (S/REL USA, SAU) We urge your government to assume responsibility for the overseas operations of charities and NGOs headquartered in the Kingdom. We encourage you to prevent terrorists and their supporters from exploiting religious events (Hajj, Umrah, Ramadan) to raise funds. We acknowledge the recent adoption of stricter financial controls on charities, but urge greater regulation and oversight of the Saudi charitable sector.
(S/REL USA, SAU) We would like to stress our interest in broadening and deepening this dialogue and information exchange as we still lack detailed information on the ultimate sources of terrorist financing emanating from the Kingdom. We commend your government for recent efforts to put terrorists and terrorist financiers on trial, and we encourage you to publicize details of prosecutions to maximize the deterrent effects.
(S/REL USA, SAU) You have had success in detaining and deterring financial facilitators. However, we encourage your government also to focus on the long-term and more fundamental goal of dissuading donors from funding violent extremism.
(S/REL USA, SAU) We commend your government’s effort over the past several years to use the media, internet, and other forms of public outreach to discourage extremism. We emphasize that a critical component in this campaign is cutting off the flow of funds from Saudi Arabia to foreign religious, charitable, and educational organizations that propagate violent extremist ideologies to vulnerable populations.