Subcommittee on Public Safety and National Security of the Standing Committee on Justice, Human Rights, Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness
Wednesday, October 26, 2005
Testimony from Rachel Ehrenfeld:
Congratulations. I thank the committee for inviting me to testify on this urgent matter.
Earlier this month, President George W. Bush finally declared that our war is with radical Islam. He said: “In pursuit of their goals, Islamic radicals are empowered by helpers and enablers…. They are strengthened by front operations—such as corrupted charities—and those who aggressively fund the spread of radical, intolerant versions of Islam.” Defeating “the murderous ideology of the Islamic radicals,” he said, “is the great challenge of our century.” This plague cannot be eliminated by appeasement, dialogue, or negotiated solutions.
The religious and philosophical justification for promoting jihad around the world is found in the Koran, says Dr. Hussein Shehata, a leading Islamic scholar at al-Azhar University in Cairo. According to Dr. Shehata, the following terms in the Koran combine to justify the spreading of jihad: in Arabic, al-Jihad bil-Lisan, which means “jihad of the tongue”, and al-Jihad bil-Qalam, “jihad of the pen”. Both combine for preaching and writing to promote jihad.
These commands are complemented by al-Jihad bil-Mal—the “financial jihad”—namely raising and contributing money to support the jihad warriors known as the mujahideen. The Islamists of al-Qaeda, Hamas, and Hezbollah, from Egypt and Saudi Arabia to Spain, England, Africa, Asia, South America, the Caribbean, the U.S., and Canada, vow to convert the world to Islam. “If a country does not allow the propagation of Islam to its inhabitants, then the Muslim[s]…would be justified in waging Jihad against that country.” That’s a quote.
President Bush declared repeatedly that “money is the lifeblood of terrorist operations”. Stopping the flow of money to the terrorists would stop the financial jihad that feeds the efforts to revive the Islamic caliphate. It would also stop the financing of terror attacks, hate propaganda and education, and the undermining of democracies. In Israel, it has financed more than 26,000 terror attacks in the last five years, including 144 suicide attacks. This comes to at least 14 attacks a day in a country the size of Vancouver Island.
While acknowledging the dangers of radical Islam and the support its propagators receive from “authoritarian regimes—allies of convenience like Syria and Iran”, the President neglected to mention Saudi Arabia and the illegal drug trade that provides major financial resources for Islamist and other terrorist organizations worldwide.
Despite the oil crisis, we can no longer pretend that the Saudis are our allies in the war against radical Islam. Continuing to do so, or failing to recognize illegal drugs as a major source of terror funding, sets us up for failure.
Let me illustrate.
Former U.S. Central Intelligence Agency director James Woolsey testified before the U.S. House of Representatives, saying: “Some $85 billion to $90 billion has been spent from sources in Saudi Arabia in the last 30 years spreading Wahhabi beliefs throughout the world.” The U.S. National Intelligence Reform Act of December 2004 requires development of a presidential strategy to confront Islamic extremism in collaboration with Saudi Arabia. So far, says a September government accounting office report, U.S. agencies have been unable to determine the extent of Saudi Arabia’s domestic and international cooperation.
Indeed, the Saudis continue to fund terrorists. In August, Y’akub Abu Assab, a senior Hamas operative, was captured after he opened the Judea regional Hamas communication centre in East Jerusalem. Assab transferred hundreds of thousands of dollars as well as operational instructions from Hamas headquarters in Saudi Arabia to Hamas operatives in the West Bank and Gaza for terror attacks in Israel, as well as funds for the families of suicide bombers.
On Iqra TV on August 29, 2005, Saudi Arabia’s secretary general of the official Muslim World League Koran Memorization Commission—Sheikh Abdallah Basfar—urged Muslims everywhere to fund terrorism. He said, “The Prophet said: ‘He who equips a fighter–it is as if he himself fought.’ You lie in your bed, safe in your own home, and donate money and Allah credits you with the rewards of a fighter. What is this? A privilege.”
At least two members of the Saudi government, Riyadh governor, Prince Salman, and Minister of Defence Prince Sultan, are sponsors of the Saudi High Commission, which evidence in the 9/11 victims’ lawsuits shows “has long acted as a fully integrated component of al-Qaeda’s logistical and financial support infrastructure”. Moreover, the lawsuits detail that “the September 11 attacks were a direct, intended and foreseeable product of [the High Commission’s] participation in al-Qaeda’s jihadist campaign”.
The most important finding of the GAO, however, was buried in a footnote. It says the “distinction between the [Saudi] government’s support and funding, versus that provided by entities and individuals, especially in the case of Saudi charities’ alleged activities, is not always clear”.
While the U.S. Treasury Department is obligated to monitor funders of terrorism, the GAO reports that Treasury is not fulfilling its duty, in that Treasury “does not identify, monitor, or counter the support and funding or the global propagation of Islamic extremism as it relates to an ideology”. This ideology, according to the GAO, “denies the legitimacy of non-believers and practitioners of other forms of Islam, and that explicitly promotes hatred, intolerance, and violence….” This is the reason the Dawah should be stopped for charities that support such ideology.
Like Saudi Arabia, Iran exports radical Islamic ideology and terrorism, chiefly through Hezbollah. As we heard today, the President has suggested something along those lines. Western intelligence sources estimate Hezbollah’s operational budget at about $200 million to $500 million annually.
Hezbollah’s money comes from several sources, including at least $120 million a year from Iran and less from Syria. And like other terrorist organizations, Hezbollah receives funding from charitable organizations, donations from individuals, proceeds from legitimate businesses, but also a lot from illegitimate businesses: drug trafficking; illegal arms-trading; cigarette smuggling; currency, video, and CD counterfeiting; fraud; robbery; operating illegal telephone exchanges; and extortion.
The money raised by Hezbollah is used to fund not only its political party in Lebanon, which serves as a cover for Hezbollah; most of the money goes to fund Hezbollah’s terror activities, including the operations of its major hate propaganda distributing machine, the Al-Manar satellite television station.
It also goes to fund Palestinian terrorism. According to the October 13, 2005, Palestinian daily, Al -Ayyam, the Iranian-sponsored Ansar Welfare Society and Palestine Shahid Society distributed $1 million to families of martyrs, and in a ceremony attended by Palestinian Authority officials and shown on official Palestinian television, the Iranian Shahid Foundation recently distributed an additional $2 million in grants to martyrs’ families.
Concerning illegal drugs, since the mid-1980s Hezbollah has used illicit drugs as a major funding source and weapon against the west. An official Iranian fatwa ruled: “We are making these drugs for Satan America and the Jews. If we cannot kill them with guns, so we will kill them with drugs.”
Hezbollah’s involvement in the illegal drug trade centres on a transnational triangle of illicit activity conducted from areas of Lebanon, the Balkans, and the tri-border region of Argentina, Brazil, and Paraguay. The unstable, often corrupt government structures, weak economic platforms, porous borders, and largely unsupervised waterways and airfields in these regions are highly conducive to illicit operations.
In Lebanon’s Bekaa Valley, Hezbollah controls approximately 13,000 acres that produce at least 300 tons of hashish annually, most of which is exported to Europe. This high-quality Lebanese hashish grosses Hezbollah $180 million annually. Hezbollah-run laboratories, refining tons of heroin, are estimated to bring in some $3 billion annually. Hezbollah also smuggles arms. However, one smuggled Kalashnikov wholesales for $500, while one kilo of heroin wholesales for $3,000 to $5000.
Of course, these Hezbollah operatives have strong relationships with other narcoterrorist groups and criminal gangs wherever they are operating.
Brazilian authorities, for example, estimate that at least $6 billion to $6.5 billion are laundered in the tri-border region annually by criminal gangs, including terrorists, and that in the year 2000 alone, at least $261 million went to the Middle East from Islamist organizations in the region.
After the fall of the Taliban, the evidence that heroin was their major financial resource was overwhelming, yet UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan failed to mention illegal drug trafficking as a global threat in his plan to improve international security and to reform the UN. Moreover, last week NATO’s Supreme Allied Commander Europe, General James Jones, while acknowledging that poppy production is the number one problem Afghanistan has to face for its future, failed to connect the revenues derived from the heroin trade to the resurgence of the Taliban and al Qaeda.
Clearly it was not the intention of the U.S. to turn Afghanistan into a multi-billion-dollar heroin exporter when it liberated the country, yet the reluctance to deal with Afghanistan’s ever-expanding poppy fields and heroin labs has caused an 800% increase in its heroin production since 2001. The latest UN Office on Drugs and Crime report indicates that a slight decline in poppy cultivation has not yet cut the availability of heroin in Europe or in the U.S. In fact, Afghanistan supplies 87% of the world’s heroin market, bringing in an estimated $7 billion annually to local warlords and a resurgent Taliban and al Qaeda.
There are potential solutions. The U.S. government has spent more than $10 million in the last decade to develop mycoherbicides, naturally occurring plant-pathogenic fungi, that could easily and safely eradicate cocoa bushes as well as poppy and cannabis plants. According to mycoherbicides researcher Dr. David Sands, all that is needed to use this eradication method is a battery of six tests to verify the safety of the mycoherbicides in terms of toxicity and probable environmental impact. It would cost $40,000 for each fungal strain. This seems like a very small investment to eradicate the cocaine, cannabis, and heroin problems. It would also work towards the development of a sustainable economy for the Afghan people.
The Financial Action Task Force meeting held in Paris earlier this month, as well as many other conferences devoted to terrorism financing, has issued self-congratulatory statements and plans for further meetings, but as important as the statements, new laws, and banning of terrorist organizations are, they are useless as long as the financing of radical Islam is allowed to flourish. Indeed, without the political will to stop the direct and indirect financing of terrorism, no law or convention will stop it. The west is essentially combating terrorist financing solely by its own jihad of the tongue. Until we face up to sources of terrorist money being provided or condoned in various ways by our putative allies, we will be fated to issuing more lame statements condemning future attacks. We have the ability to end the plague of terrorism only if we choke off the funding that makes it possible. We owe it to future generations to do so.