When the Final Report on 9/11 Commission Recommendations was released Dec. 5, 2005, the Bush administration's efforts to combat global terroristfinancing received a deserving grade of 'A-minus' -- the highest grade afforded to all of the intelligence community.
While noting there was 'still much to do in the Gulf States and in South Asia,' the Final Report correctly observed 'significant strides in using terrorism finance as an intelligence tool,' and that U.S. efforts had 'won the support of key countries in tackling terrorism finance.'
Recently, however, international support for U.S.-targeted financial sanctions has waned. In addition to perennially obstinate Gulf countries such as Yemen, friendly countries such as South Africa and the United Kingdom pose a different set of problems and challenges.
Moreover, the United Nations is woefully unable (or unwilling) to provide the support necessary to properly combat terrorism finance. Thus, while America may be a tougher place for terrorists to move money, terrorists see growth opportunities around the world.
In January, for instance, the U.S. Treasury designated two South Africans, Junaid and Farhad Dockrat, as 'specially designated global terrorists' for their support of al-Qaida and the Taliban. The Treasury also submitted the Dockrats' names to the Sanctions Committee on al-Qaida and the Taliban at the U.N. Security Council.
One cousin was identified as having provided nearly $63,000 to al-Akhtar Trust, a charity that had been designated for providing support to al-Qaida.
The other cousin was responsible for raising $120,000 for Hazma Rabi'a, the al-Qaida operations chief killed by the U.S. military in 2005.
Rather than pursue these terrorists, South Africa, which had become a member of the U.N. sanctions committee in January, placed an indefinite hold on the proposed U.S. designation.
Thus, while American sanctions might freeze any of the Dockrats' assets that reach U.S. banks (the likelihood of that is now extremely low), the terrorist-funding cousins continue to do business in South Africa with impunity, all the while complaining about how the U.S. has accused them unfairly.
While the South Africans are obstructing U.S. designations within the construct of U.N. bylaws, Yemen is simply rejecting its responsibilities as a U.N. member state.
In December, Yemeni Sheikh Abd al-Majid al-Zindani accompanied President Ali Abdullah Saleh to an Organization of the Islamic Conference meeting in Saudi Arabia. Zindani, a known associate of al-Qaida and the founder of al-Iman University, which played a primary role in the radicalization of 'American Taliban' John Walker Lindh, was designated by the Treasury and the U.N. Sanctions Committee in 2004.
A closer look at the Zindani case reveals that the Yemeni government has taken little or no action to bar his travel or freeze his assets in compliance with its U.N. obligations.
While the U.N. does not appear to have the tools to enforce its designations, it also appears to lack the will to designate a number of dangerous terrorist groups that are critical to the current U.S. counterterrorism strategy.
Indeed, U.N. sanctions against terrorists can be levied only against entities associated with al-Qaida and the Taliban. This leaves out key Middle East terrorist targets, such as Hamas, Palestinian Islamic Jihad and Hezbollah. Under the current sanctions regime, none of these suicide-bombing organizations has even a remote chance of being designated.
Surprisingly, while the U.N. turns a blind eye to Hamas, the U.K. is doing the same. Britain's H.M. Treasury and the U.K. Charity Commission, to cite a couple of examples, have declined to take action against a London-based Hamas front group known as Interpal. Also known as the Palestinian Relief and Development Fund, Interpal was identified by the U.S. Treasury as 'a principal charity utilized to hide the flow of money to Hamas' and a 'fundraising coordinator' for the organization.
Interpal was banned by Israel in 1998. The U.S. Treasury followed suit in August 2003 by designating the group pursuant to Executive Order 13224. British authorities, despite their close cooperation with the U.S. on a host of counterterrorism fronts, chose not to halt Interpal's activities. Interestingly, U.K. authorities froze Interpal's activities for suspected links to terrorism, but eventually allowed the organization to resume operation.
The U.K. record is not all bad. London has participated in key U.N. designations, such as the high-profile Feb. 8, 2006, takedown of several Libyan Islamic Fighting Group businesses, a charity and numerous individual financiers for the group.
Moreover, the U.K. just launched a new, strategic approach to combating the financing of terrorism titled 'The Financial Challenge to Crime andTerrorism.' This new approach may signal a more aggressive financial sanctions regime.
Thus, while America's strongest ally in the war against terrorism is still finding its way with regard to terrorism finance, much of the rest of the world lags woefully behind.
Without support from the international community, Washington's efforts to combat global terrorist financing are beginning to fall short, due to other countries' failings.
Indeed, America may be scoring successes at home, but it will not achieve its global objectives until the international community fully commits to the Bush administration's vision of an aggressive, worldwide campaign.