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Gulf states blacklist terror financiers linked to Iran, Islamic State, Syrian regime

Lead figures in the Assad regime’s Qatirji oil-smuggling network were among those sanctioned.
A member of the Syrian government forces stands next to a well at Jazel oil field near the ancient city of Palmyra.

Members of the Riyadh-based Terrorist Financing Targeting Center (TFTC), which includes the United States, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Kuwait, Bahrain and Oman, blacklisted 13 individuals and three organizations for financing terrorism on Monday.

Among them were Hossam and Muhammad al-Qatarji, lead members of the Syrian regime’s oil trade network with the Islamic State (IS) who were previously sanctioned by the United States in 2018.

Other targets included:

  • Three men — Ali Qasir, Meghdad Amini and Morteza Hashemi — accused of helping Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) Quds Force and Hezbollah move and launder tens of millions of dollars, including via institutions in the UAE, and establish IRGC front companies in China.
  • Bahrain-based Shia militant groups Saraya al-Mukhtar and Saraya al-Ashtar (also known as al-Ashtar Brigades) that received IRGC training and explosives and plotted attacks against Bahraini and US officials. Both are US-designated terrorist groups.
  • Six members of a Boko Haram financing cell convicted in the United Arab Emirates in 2019.
  • Two additional IS financiers: Ismatullah Khalozai, accused of aiding the group’s branch in Afghanistan from Turkey, and Alaa Khanfurah, who facilitated financial transfers between IS leaders in Syria via his Turkey-based money service business.

Why it matters: Washington has long pressed GCC states to crack down on terror funding networks that use their institutions, with mixed success.

All of these entities were previously sanctioned by the United States, but the TFTC’s marks a sign of some progress in recent years’ efforts.

“Over the past five years, TFTC member states have addressed a broad range of terrorist financing activity in the Arabian Peninsula, with the goal of strengthening regional defenses and capabilities to counter terrorist financing,” US Undersecretary of the Treasury for terrorism and financial intelligence Brian Nelson said in a statement released following yesterday’s meeting in Riyadh.

“The TFTC’s actions today signal the determination and commitment of TFTC member states to continue to work toward these goals, as well as unity in the commitment to root out the full scope of terrorist financing activity,” Nelson said.

The move comes just three months after the world’s leading financial watchdog, the Brussels-based Financial Action Task Force (FATF), downgraded the UAE to a grey list for failing to adequately crack down on terrorist funds flowing through the Gulf country.

The Biden administration raised no objection to the FATF’s decision, a US official told Al-Monitor.

Know more: Read up on the latest US sanctions targeting a Hamas funding network operating in Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Algeria and the UAE.

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