Monday, 17 November 2014

To Fight Terrorism, Follow The Money – And Stop It _ David Blunkett

We must be proactive in investigating and penalising all those who are funding terrorist organisations. As I wrote in these pages last week, it is crucial that Britain responds rapidly to emerging terror threats – whether they are in the real world or online, where they can be just as dangerous. Whatever the legitimate concerns raised about our privacy, we must recognise that the intelligence agencies – particularly GCHQ, our eyes and ears since its inception – have a duty to track and identify those outside our country who wish to do us harm.

But just as we need an open and honest debate about privacy – and how to balance that with the necessity for counter-terrorism – there is a need for another overdue debate. This is one not about international companies and how they unwittingly allow terrorists to use their platforms, but about nation states and their inaction against citizens who are funding terror around the world.
In the columns of this newspaper two weeks ago, the Conservative MP Stephen Barclay spelt out cogently why countries such as Qatar and Kuwait – and he could well have added Saudi Arabia – are not only tolerating those known to be funding Isil militants and others of a similar ilk, but are also protecting those close to the ruling families.
As home secretary after the September 11 attacks on the United States in 2001, I worked with Gordon Brown, who was then the chancellor, to put in place measures to freeze the assets of those who were suspected of raising funds or providing their own personal wealth to al-Qaeda and other terrorist groups.
This should not surprise anyone. In fact, any normal citizen going about their business will find that banks are checking the validity of their transactions. So I was taken aback to discover that some of those suspected by the United States of facilitating terrorism, and therefore subject to US asset freezing and travel bans, do not appear to be listed here in the UK on our equivalent Treasury lists.

If we are to appeal to the leadership of other states to take action against their citizens, we clearly need to practise what we preach. The arrest of a man in Berkshire suspected of funding terrorism last week is a start, but matching US action on asset freezing is a necessity. Travel bans are also important, especially where they affect family members of those in positions of power in countries from which terrorist funding is identified.

Paradoxically, it is the money made through the sale of oil in what are substantially oil-rich fiefdoms which is oiling the wheels of terror. It is being used to purchase the armaments and facilitate the sophisticated communication of Isil militants and others.

In the real world, of course, realpolitik raises its head. Oil-rich states invest heavily in the United Kingdom, and as Douglas Alexander, the shadow foreign secretary, has pointed out, there is a fear that it may be counterproductive to upset those who have co-operated in the recent past with US and UK foreign policy in the region.

But those who claim they are our allies because they are our enemy’s enemy can only substantiate that idea if, at the very heart of their regimes, they deal decisively with those who use vast sums of money to fund terrorism.

The Gulf States have a range of tools at their disposal. They are unfettered by the checks and balances which we in democratic countries quite properly demand. In simple terms, if they wished to act against an individual or family, then they have the power to do it.

So, in the end, this is a matter of will. They cannot parade on the international scene their desire to assist in taking on the global threat from extremism but then condone, in their own backyard, those providing the means to carry through that deadly intent.

Pressure needs to come not just from the UK and the US – but from all those nations committed to providing a stable and secure world in which trade can flourish, poverty can be reduced and freedom from fear can be secured.

Let us hope, then, that as well as raising these matters strongly with the Emir of Qatar when he visited Britain at the end of October, the Prime Minister has taken the opportunity at the meeting of the G20 to gain international support in taking on what is, after all, an international threat. Preventing young men from returning to Britain is one measure announced recently by David Cameron, but preventing wealth reaching our deadliest enemies is surely more pressing.

Telegraph Newspaper