From the official narrative, of the 19 hijackers in the September 11 attacks, 15 were citizens of Saudi Arabia, and the others were from the United Arab Emirates, Egypt, and Lebanon.
State-sponsored terrorism is government support of violent non-state actors engaged in terrorism. Because of the pejorative nature of the word, the identification of particular examples are usually subject to political dispute and different definitions of terrorism.
“State Sponsors of Terrorism” is a designation applied by the United States Department of State to countries which the Department alleges to have “repeatedly provided support for acts of international terrorism.” Inclusion on the list imposes strict unilateral sanctions.
The countries currently on the list are Iran, Sudan, Syria, and North Korea.
NOTE: countries not on the list – Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Egypt, or Lebanon
The list began on December 29, 1979, with Libya, Iraq, South Yemen, and Syria. Cuba was added to the list on March 1, 1982, and Iran on January 19, 1984. Later North Korea in 1988 and Sudan on August 12, 1993, were added. South Yemen was removed from the list in 1990, Iraq was removed twice in 1982 and 2004, Libya was removed in 2006, North Korea was removed in 2008 and added again in 2017, and Cuba was removed in 2015.
The sanctions which the US imposes on countries on the list are:
- A ban on arms-related exports and sales.
- Controls over exports of dual-use items, requiring 30-day Congressional notification for goods or services that could significantly enhance the terrorist-list country’s military capability or ability to support terrorism.
- Prohibitions on economic assistance.
- Imposition of miscellaneous financial and other restrictions, including:
- Requiring the United States to oppose loans by the World Bank and other international financial institutions;
- Lifting diplomatic immunity to allow families of terrorist victims to file civil lawsuits in U.S. courts;
- Denying companies and individuals tax credits for income earned in terrorist-listed countries;
- Denial of duty-free treatment of goods exported to the United States;
- Authority to prohibit any U.S. citizen from engaging in a financial transaction with a terrorist-list government without a Treasury Department license; and
- Prohibition of Defense Department contracts above $100,000 with companies controlled by terrorist-list states.
Saudi Arabia arguably remains the most prolific sponsor of international Islamist terrorism, allegedly supporting groups as disparate as the Afghanistan Taliban, Al Qaeda, Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) and the Al-Nusra Front.
Saudi Arabia is said to be the world’s largest source of funds and promoter of Salafist jihadism, which forms the ideological basis of terrorist groups such as al-Qaeda, Taliban, ISIS and others. Donors in Saudi Arabia constitute the most significant source of funding to Sunni terrorist groups worldwide, according to Hillary Clinton. According to a secret December 2009 paper signed by the US secretary of state, “Saudi Arabia remains a critical financial support base for al-Qaida, the Taliban, LeT and other terrorist groups.”
The violence in Afghanistan and Pakistan is partly bankrolled by wealthy, conservative donors across the Arabian Sea whose governments do little to stop them. Three other Arab countries which are listed as sources of militant money are Qatar, Kuwait, and the United Arab Emirates, all neighbors of Saudi Arabia. The Pakistani militant outfit Lashkar-e-Taiba, which carried out the 2008 Mumbai attacks, used a Saudi-based front company to fund its activities in 2005. According to studies, most of suicide bombers in Iraq are Saudis. 15 of the 19 hijackers of the four airliners who were responsible for 9/11 originated from Saudi Arabia, two from the United Arab Emirates, one from Egypt, and one from Lebanon. Osama bin Laden was born and educated in Saudi Arabia.
Starting in the mid-1970s the Islamic resurgence was funded by an abundance of money from Saudi Arabian oil exports. The tens of billions of dollars in “petro-Islam” largess obtained from the recently heightened price of oil funded an estimated “90% of the expenses of the entire faith.”
Throughout the Sunni Muslim world, religious institutions for people both young and old, from children’s maddrassas to high-level scholarships received Saudi funding, “books, scholarships, fellowships, and mosques” (for example, “more than 1500 mosques were built and paid for with money obtained from public Saudi funds over the last 50 years”), along with training in the Kingdom for the preachers and teachers who went on to teach and work at these universities, schools, mosques, etc. The funding was also used to reward journalists and academics who followed the Saudis’ strict interpretation of Islam; and satellite campuses were built around Egypt for Al Azhar, the world’s oldest and most influential Islamic university.
The interpretation of Islam promoted by this funding was the strict, conservative Saudi-based Wahhabism or Salafism. In its harshest form it preached that Muslims should not only “always oppose” infidels “in every way”, but “hate them for their religion … for Allah’s sake”, that democracy “is responsible for all the horrible wars of the 20th century”, that Shia and other non-Wahhabi Muslims were “infidels”, etc. According to former Prime Minister of Singapore Lee Kuan Yew, while this effort has by no means converted all, or even most, Muslims to the Wahhabist interpretation of Islam, it has done much to overwhelm more moderate local interpretations of Islam in Southeast Asia, and to pitch the Saudi-interpretation of Islam as the “gold standard” of religion in minds of Muslims across the globe.
Patrick Cockburn accused Saudi Arabia of supporting extremist Islamist groups in the Syrian Civil War, writing: “In Syria, in early 2015, it supported the creation of the Army of Conquest, primarily made up of the al-Qaeda affiliate the al-Nusra Front and the ideologically similar Ahrar al-Sham, which won a series of victories against the Syrian Army in Idlib province.”
While the Saudi government denies claims that it exports religious or cultural extremism, it is argued that by its nature, Wahhabism encourages intolerance and promotes terrorism. Former CIA director James Woolsey described it as “the soil in which Al-Qaeda and its sister terrorist organizations are flourishing.” In 2015, Sigmar Gabriel, Vice-Chancellor of Germany, accused Saudi Arabia of supporting intolerance and extremism, saying: “Wahhabi mosques are financed all over the world by Saudi Arabia. In Germany, many dangerous Islamists come from these communities.” In May 2016, The New York Times editorialised that the kingdom allied to the U.S. had “spent untold millions promoting Wahhabism, the radical form of Sunni Islam that inspired the 9/11 hijackers and that now inflames the Islamic State”. Iranian Hamidreza Taraghi, a hard-line analyst with ties to Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, said, “ISIS ideologically, financially and logistically is fully supported and sponsored by Saudi Arabia…They are one and the same”.
In 2014, former Prime Minister of Iraq Nouri al-Maliki stated that Saudi Arabia and Qatar started the civil wars in Iraq and Syria, and incited and encouraged terrorist movements, like ISIS and al-Qaeda, supporting them politically and in the media, with money and by buying weapons for them. Saudi Arabia denied the accusations which were criticised by the country, the Carnegie Middle East Center and the Royal United Services Institute.
One of the leaked Podesta emails from August 2014, addressed to John Podesta, identifies Saudi Arabia and Qatar as providing “clandestine,” “financial and logistic” aid to ISIL and other “radical Sunni groups.” The email outlines a plan of action against ISIL, and urges putting pressure on Saudi Arabia and Qatar to end their alleged support for the group. Whether the email was originally written by Hillary Clinton, her advisor Sidney Blumenthal, or another person is unclear.
Following the 2017 Tehran attacks, Iranian authorities such as members of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps and the Iranian Minister of Foreign Affairs Javad Zarif, have accused Saudi Arabia of being behind the attacks. In a Twitter post, Zarif wrote, “Terror-sponsoring despots threaten to bring the fight to our homeland. Proxies attack what their masters despise most: the seat of democracy”. His statements referred to the Saudi deputy crown prince Mohammad bin Salman’s threats against the country about a month earlier, in which bin Salman revealed their policy to drag the regional conflict into Iranian borders. Adel al-Jubeir, Saudi Arabia’s foreign minister, denied his country’s involvement in the attacks and said Riyadh had no knowledge of who was responsible for them. He condemned the terrorist attacks and “the killing of the innocent anywhere it occurs.”
United Arab Emirates is listed as sources of militant money in Afghanistan and Pakistan. Taliban and their militant partners the Haqqani network earn “significant funds” through UAE-based businesses.
The U.S., since 1979, funded and armed Afghan jihadists under the Operation Cyclone as part of the Reagan Doctrine, which arguably contributed to the creation of Al-Qaeda and the Taliban.
In April 2017, former Israeli Minister of Defense Moshe Ya’alon alluded to a November 2016 firefight between Israeli soldiers and militants belonging to the Khalid ibn al-Walid Army—a branch of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) active in the area of the Golan Heights. Ya’alon stated: “There was one case recently where Daesh opened fire and apologized.” Israeli officials subsequently refused to explain how Israel received this apology, but it has been noted that communicating with terrorists violates Israeli law. Former head of Israel’s military intelligence Amos Yadlin explained Israel’s rationale: “There is no doubt that Hezbollah and Iran are the major threat to Israel, much more than the radical Sunni Islamists”
The Israeli government supports various armed groups in its conflict with Iranian government. The Bid Kaneh explosion was a large explosion that occurred at 13:30 local time on 12 November 2011 at the Shahid Modarres missile base. According to TIME magazine an unnamed Western official implied that the explosion was a deliberate act. Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak spoke about the explosion, “May there be more like it.” A year earlier on 12 October 2010, at about 11hrs local time, an explosion occurred at the Khorram Abad Imam Ali garrison. The Daily Telegraph wrote in an article that Israeli media claimed the explosion was sabotage instigated by Israel. According to a 2012 report in Foreign Policy, Mossad agents disguised as Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) officers recruited members of Jundallah—”a Pakistan-based Sunni terrorist organization … responsible for assassinating Iranian government officials and killing Iranian women and children”—to carry out “false flag” operations against Iran. According to Eric Draitser, “thanks to Wikileaks, it also now documented fact that Israel has long since attempted to use Kurdish groups such as PJAK… against Iran.”
Tensions between Qatar and its neighbors skyrocketed last month after Qatar’s state-run news agency published an article in which the Qatar’s ruling emir, Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, was quoted praising Israel and Iran — Saudi Arabia’s biggest adversaries in the region. He deemed Iran an “Islamic power” and characterized Qatar’s relations with Israel as “good.” Then Sheikh Tamim made things even worse when a few days later he called Iranian President Hassan Rouhani to congratulate him on his reelection — a clear act of defiance against Saudi’s hawkish stance on Iran.
The emir was quoted as saying: “Iran represents a regional and Islamic power that cannot be ignored and it is unwise to face up against it,” the ticker read at one point. “It is a big power in the stabilisation of the region.”
Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates responded to the episode by blocking all Qatari media, including al-Jazeera.
The immediate crisis can be traced back directly to Trump’s first trip abroad as president, to Riyadh on 20 May, when he was feted and showered with flattery. Trump vaunted Saudi leadership and decisively sided with the Sunni Gulf states against Iran. Less publicly, Trump appears tacitly or explicitly to have given the green light to the Saudi royals to go on the offensive against its truculent neighbour.
When the Qatar blockade was declared, Trump cheered it on in tweets, triggering alarm and countervailing moves from the Pentagon and state department.
May 20, 2017 – Trump signed a nearly $110 billion defense deal with Saudi Arabia’s King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud on Saturday, signaling the United States’ renewed commitment to its alliance with the Gulf kingdom and desire to bolster its counterterrorism partnership. The deal was finalized in part thanks to the direct involvement of Jared Kushner, the President’s son-in-law and senior adviser. CNN reported last month that multiple White House and administration officials said Kushner had eclipsed nearly all of Trump’s West Wing and Cabinet advisers in terms of influence and established himself as the key envoy for those outside the administration. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said the deal was a component of $350 billion in economic and defense investments between the two countries over the next 10 years. The deal was a welcome sign for Saudi Arabia, which had grown nervous about the strength of its alliance with the US as President Barack Obama signed the nuclear deal with Iran. Trump, by contrast, has castigated Iran as a destabilizing power and criticized the nuclear deal, instead seeking to bolster partnerships with Sunni Gulf countries like Saudi Arabia. “This package of defense equipment and services support the long-term security of Saudi Arabia and the Gulf region in the face of Iranian threats while also bolstering the Kingdom’s ability to contribute to counterterrorism operations across the region, reducing the burden on the US military to conduct those operations,” the White House official said.
June 2017 – Saudi Arabia and its allies have issued a threatening 13-point ultimatum to Qatar as the price for lifting a two-week trade and diplomatic embargo of the country, in a marked escalation of the Gulf’s worst diplomatic dispute in decades. The onerous list of demands includes stipulations that Doha close the broadcaster al-Jazeera, drastically scale back cooperation with Iran, remove Turkish troops from Qatar’s soil, end contact with groups such as the Muslim Brotherhood and submit to monthly external compliance checks. Qatar has been given 10 days to comply with the demands or face unspecified consequences. Saudi Arabia and the other nations leading the blockade – the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt – launched an economic and diplomatic blockade on the energy-rich country a fortnight ago, initially claiming the Qatari royal family had licensed the funding of terrorism across the Middle East for decades. Since then, the allies appear to be pushing for the isolation of Iran and the suppression of dissenting media in the region. The list of demands, relayed to Qatar via mediators from Kuwait, represents the first time Saudi Arabia has been prepared to put the bloc’s previously amorphous grievances in writing. Their sweeping nature would, if accepted, represent an effective end to Qatar’s independent foreign policy. According to one of the points, Qatar would have to “align itself with other Arabs and the Gulf, militarily, politically, socially and economically, as well as in financial matters”.
Libya, Yemen, and the Maldives have also joined the diplomatic boycott.
A number of wealthy Qataris are accused of sponsoring the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant. In response to public criticism over Qatari connections to ISIL, the government has pushed back and denied supporting the group.
Trump has accused Qatar of sponsoring terrorism at the highest levels. Speaking in the White House rose garden on Friday, Trump said he had decided “the time had come to call on Qatar to end its funding … and its extremist ideology.” His comments marked his most forthright intervention in a crisis triggered on Monday when Saudi Arabia and its Gulf allies launched a co-ordinated diplomatic and economic campaign to isolate Qatar. Earlier this week, the US president appeared to take credit for the blockade in a string of tweets. On Friday, Trump said that Arab leaders he met in Saudi Arabia last month had urged him to challenge Qatar, which they accuse of backing extremist groups and cosying up to Iran.
More than 11,000 US and coalition forces are in Qatar at al-Udeid air base outside Doha, which is the centre for US air operations over Syria, Iraq, Yemen and Afghanistan.
June 15, 2017 – The US has signed a $12bn deal to supply dozens of F-15 jets to Qatar
Al Jazeera, the website of the Qatari-owned international news broadcaster could not be accessed on Wednesday. Saudi-owned TV channel Al Arabiya said its rival had been barred after the ruler of Qatar was reported to have described Iran as an “Islamic power” and criticized President Trump’s policy towards Tehran.