The United States has had limited success in cutting off funding to the Al-Qaeda-linked fighters and foreign jihadists flowing into Syria — in part because of a lack of cooperation on the part of Middle Eastern allies, according to the Washington Times.
Officials say they are tracking the movements of funds from various wealthy individuals in the Persian Gulf, but the governments of key Gulf countries are reluctant to crack down.
“Unless the money is actually in the U.S. financial system, you have to point out to these governments where the money is going and try to work with them to make sure it goes to legitimate groups,” said one U.S. official who spoke with The Washington Times on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of intelligence related to tracking such money.
“The U.S. can’t shut down bank accounts in Kuwait or Qatar,” the official said. “We can tell them, "Look at what this person is doing."
But when it comes to stemming the flow of aid to Salafist and Al-Qaeda-linked groups inside Syria, the strategy has been less successful — suggesting authorities in the Gulf may now see American pressure for such action as less worthy than previous calls to block cash to Al-Qaeda.
A report released recently by Human Rights Watch said members of Al-Qaeda affiliates the Nusra Front and Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria (ISIS) were among rebel fighters who killed some 190 unarmed civilians during an August offensive on villages perceived to be supporting the Assad government. The report said 67 of the civilians were slain at close range while trying to flee.
But an article published last month by Foreign Policy shed some light on the situation. In the article, William McCants, a former senior adviser in the State Department’s office of the coordinator for counterterrorism, wrote that “the Gulf monarchies have not been able or willing to stem the tide of private money their citizens are sending to the Salafi charities and popular committees.”
“Kuwait in particular has done little to stop it because it lacks an effective terror financing law and because it cannot afford politically to infuriate its already angry Salafi members of parliament,” wrote McCants.
“Qatar and Saudi Arabia have tried to crack down on fundraising for the Salafi militias but their citizens just send their money to Kuwait.”
The rise of extremists among Syria’s rebels, meanwhile, has set off a political storm in Turkey, where the leadership of the nation’s main opposition party is accusing the government of Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan of supporting Al-Qaeda-linked groups in the nearby war zone.
Kemal Kilicdaroglu, who heads the Republican People’s Party — or CHP, as it is known in Turkey — declared in a speech last month that Al-Qaeda “is now under the protective wings of Erdogan.”
Analysts say such claims are based mainly on politics, but also partly on the ease with which jihadist foreign fighters seeking to join Syria’s opposition rebels have been able to cross the long border between Turkey and its southern neighbor over the past two years.
Translated and edited by The Syrian Observer