Saudi Blood Money - May 1, 2002
U.S. cable networks made the right decision. They refused to accept the tarnished coin of the realm from Saudi Arabia for its national "advertising" campaign. Apparently, the Saudis were willing to lay out $10 million for image building, but the cable execs decided not to play.
Ads that promoted Saudi Arabia as "allies against terrorism" have already aired locally in Washington, D.C. Although the rhetoric used may sound good, it is hardly consistent with reality.
Would allies hold terror-thons to raise money for Palestian "martyrs"? Would allies pay huge sums of money to relatives of homicide bombers? Would allies allow officials and religious leaders to publicly justify terrorism?
And would allies ever, under the guise of charity, nurture a vast fund-raising mechanism to support terrorist activity?
In December 2001, U.S. authorities raided the offices of Benevolence International Foundation (BIV), a Saudi-based charity. The foundation was suspected of providing financing to terrorists. Based on the evidence found in the raid, the U.S. government froze BIV's assets. The foundation later sued the federal government for this action.
BIV and its executive director, Enaam M. Arnaout, have now been charged with perjury for allegedly making false statements in their lawsuit against the government. The investigation is ongoing, and additional charges may be forthcoming. Arnaout purportedly has ties to Osama bin Laden and may even have taken care of one of bin Laden's wives.
According to FBI documents, BIV was founded by a Saudi sheik, Adil Abdul Galil Betargy. The sheik is an alleged associate of bin Laden. The Saudi High Commission for Aid to Bosnia (SHCAB), another "benevolent" group, was founded by Prince Selman bin Abdul-Aziz and supported by King Fahd. The entity was ostensibly a charity.
But what use would a charity have for supplies such as maps of government buildings in D.C., materials for forging U.S. State Department badges, files on the use of crop dusters, and photographs of terror targets including the World Trade Center? But this is exactly what NATO forces found in a raid of SHCAB last October.
The Saudi-sponsored Mercy International Relief Organization (MIRO) was unmasked via testimony during the 1998 U.S. Embassy bombings trial. A former al-Qaeda member identified MIRO as one of the charities that al-Qaeda used as a front. Documents presented at the trial indicated that the smuggling of weapons and delivering of false documents and phony passports were included in MIRO's charitable endeavors.
The International Islamic Relief Organization (IIRO) is part of the Muslim World League, which is funded and supported by the Saudi government. Its Philippine office was run by bin Laden's brother-in-law. The governments of Kenya and Canada have found evidence of IIRO's participation in terrorism.
In light of such potent information, the U.S. government has no choice but to demand that the Saudis dismantle organizations that are underwriting terror.
If the Saudis really want to be known as allies, the path has been laid. No doling out of money to families of homicide bombers. No veiled pro-terrorist rhetoric. No telethons to support terrorism.
And no more phony Saudi-supported charities.