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Why America can't stop the Mideast from funding terrorism
WikiLeaks' "cablegate" shows that we suspect our Middle East allies of not doing enough to stem the flow of money to terrorists. Why aren't they doing more?
 
Saudi police officers monitor Muslim pilgrims; militants disguised as holy pilgrims reportedly smuggle large amounts of money into the country during Hajj.
Saudi police officers monitor Muslim pilgrims; militants disguised as holy pilgrims reportedly smuggle large amounts of money into the country during Hajj.
Corbis

Among the latest WikiLeaks revelations: The U.S. is struggling to shut down the financing of terrorist organizations, thanks in part to significant roadblocks in the Middle East. Saudi Arabia and other ostensible U.S. allies in the Gulf remain the largest source of money for al Qaeda and other Islamist terrorist groups, leaked diplomatic cables allege. Why can't the U.S. persuade its allies to stop the flow of money to terrorists? (Watch The Week's Sunday Talk Show Briefing about WikiLeaks' fallout)

We have "ambivalent" allies in the Mideast: Saudi Arabia is the biggest source of terrorism cash, and the problem there is two-fold, says The Guardian in an editorial. First, the cables reveal "a continuing challenge" in getting Saudi officials to view "stopping the flow of these funds as a strategic priority." Second, the Saudis can't control certain security loopholes; money-laundering terrorists routinely enter the country safely disguised as travelers on the annual pilgrimage to Mecca.
"Saudi Arabia: Ambivalent ally"

We have mostly ourselves to blame: The Saudis spread militant Islam by financing "fundamentalist mosques, charities, and schools," says Thomas Friedman in The New York Times. "Basically our oil payments are cycled through Saudi Arabia and end up funding the very militants" we are fighting. What the cables really reveal is "America lacks leverage" to fight this, "because we are addicted to oil," and you can't strong-arm your "pusher."
"The big American leak"

Relax, we're winning... slowly: al Qaeda's "assets are few, and shrinking," says Peter Bergen in Vanity Fair. Thanks to its recent attacks on fellow Muslims, it has "lost a great deal of support" in the Gulf states, especially Saudi Arabia. And that trend will continue. Once Mideast public support dries up, "al Qaeda and allied groups will eventually implode."
"Bin Laden's lonely crusade"

 

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