WASHINGTON — Although Saudi Arabia has cracked down on militants within its borders, the kingdom has not met its promises to help prevent the spread of terrorism or curb the flow of money from Saudis to terrorist cells around the world, U.S. intelligence, diplomatic and other officials say. As a result, these critics say, countless young terrorism suspects are believed to have escaped the kingdom's tightening noose by fleeing across what critics call a porous border into Iraq.
U.S. military officials confirm an aggressive role by Saudi fighters in the insurgency in Iraq, where over the last year they reportedly accounted for more than half of all Arab militants killed.
And millions of dollars continue to flow from wealthy Saudis through Saudi-based Islamic charitable and relief organizations to Al Qaeda and other suspected terrorist groups abroad, aided by what the U.S. officials call Riyadh's failure to set up a government commission to police such groups as promised, senior U.S. officials from several counter-terrorism agencies said in interviews.Those officials said Saudi Arabia had taken some positive steps within its borders.
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But they criticized the Saudis for not taking a more active role in the global fight. Daniel L. Glaser, the deputy assistant Treasury secretary for terrorist financing and financial crimes, recalled attending a counter-terrorism conference in Riyadh last February at which the Saudis declared they would be an international leader in fighting Al Qaeda and in eradicating terrorism worldwide.
Nearly a year later, Glaser and other U.S. officials said, those promises are unfulfilled."They promised to do it, and they need to live up to their promises," Glaser said. "They need to crack down operationally on donors in Saudi Arabia. And they need to exert their influence over their international charities abroad…. They have to care not just what Al Qaeda is doing just within their own borders but wherever it is operating."
This is a very important story, and one that you have not read recently either in the Washington Post or New York Times. Josh Meyer has engaged in some extraordinary enterprise reporting to get this, but the fact that he was able to get a deputy assistant secretary of treasury to go on the record regarding the Saudis may indicate that the Bush administration may be getting tougher with the Saudis-- and to the minds of many of the beuracrats in the national security agencies I regularly speak to for my day job, not a moment too soon.
And the Saudis have some gripes of their own. A senior Saudi official, as paraphrased by Meyer, complains that "U.S. forces in Iraq have done little to patrol that country's borders with Saudi Arabia, and foreign fighters are entering Iraq through Syria and Iran." While foreign fighters only account for a small percentage of the insurgency, they are among the most deadliest and best-trained of the insurgents, most intelligence officials have believed for some time-- which only makes the issue of control of the borders even the more urgent.