Four Countries to Benefit From Saudi Tsunami Aid
Mohammed Rasooldeen • Arab News

RIYADH, 3 January 2005 — The Kingdom will dispatch relief supplies to four countries affected by tsunamis that killed more than 150,000 people and rendered millions homeless.
“The countries chosen for aid by the Kingdom include Indonesia, Sri Lanka, Thailand and Maldives,” a spokesman at the Ministry of Finance told Arab News, adding that two planeloads of relief materials have already been sent to Colombo in the past two days.

This is a straight news report about what Saudi Arabia is doing to provide disaster assistance.

01/04 UPDATE: I’ve checked with the Saudi Embassy in Washington to get answers to the questions asked in comments. According to Nail Al-Jubair, head of the Information Office, the $10 million is a provisional figure, with the Saudi government continuing to assess needs with the UN relief agencies and local authorities. Saudi aid is currently going to Indonesia, Sri Lanka, Thailand, India, the Maldives, and Somalia. I note that these are countries from which significant numbers of immigrant laborers come.

The New York Times runs an article by Neil MacFarquhar that notes complaints coming out of Kuwait about their level of assistance. I again suspect that this is based on first-instance information. What is interesting, though, is how anti-terrorism funding efforts are complicating the ability of citizens of the Gulf States to donate to charitable organizations: concern about the legitimacy of some charitable bodies has lead to reduced giving across the board.

01/05/2005 UPDATE: The Saudi Embassy has issued a new press release stating that they have tripled their level of assistance.

They also announce that Saudi TV will be holding a telethon to raise funds for disaster relief on Thursday, January 6. This will permit people to donate funds into authorized channels, obviating questions about the misdirection of charitable funds.

01/06/2005 UPDATE: The Saudi Embassy reports that the Saudi Telethon raised more than $40 million as of 4:00pm yesterday afternoon. Private donations, therefore, are outstripping official donations. This is sure to put additional pressure on the government to increase its own aid.

01/07/2005 UPDATE:

Saudis Donate Generously to Tsunami Fund Through Telethon

from the Arab News

JEDDAH, 8 January 2005 — Saudis responded enthusiastically to a telethon staged to raise money for victims of the Asian tsunami disaster, donating more than SR300 million ($82 million). The Saudi leadership gave SR35 million at the telethon which lasted from Thursday afternoon until the early hours of yesterday.

I mentioned in response to one commenter that the scale of private Saudi contribution through this telethon will be an embarassment to the government since it’s nearly three times the official donation. It will probably put pressure on the government to increase its assistance offer.

As a note of clarification, “the Saudi leadership” as mentioned in the article, means them as inviduals, not as agents of the government. And for those doing their own math, the currency exchange rate is US $1.00 = SR 3.75.

The following piece notes that the Jeddah-based Islamic Development Bank (in which Saudi Arabia plays a major role) is making serious efforts to provide assistance. I can’t tell from news reports whether or not the Saudis are considering this as part of their official relief assistance program. In any event, the $500 million is a significant amount.

IDB to Send Relief Missions to Tsunami-Hit Countries
Habib Shaikh, Arab News

JEDDAH, 8 January 2005 — The Islamic Development Bank (IDB) is to send missions to Indonesia, the Maldives and Sri Lanka to provide relief assistance to the victims of the tsunami disaster.

Later, this would be followed by visits to assess and prepare reconstruction and rehabilitation projects, according to information made available to Arab News on Thursday.

IDB has pledged $500 million to the countries affected by tsunami — India, Somalia, Thailand, Indonesia, the Maldives and Sri Lanka.

January:07:2005 - 23:21 | Comments & Trackbacks (17) | Permalink
17 Responses to “Saudi Tsunami Aid”
  1. 1
    johnd01 Said:
    January:03:2005 - 01:38 

    Ummm… I thought 10 countries suffered from the disaster. Why would the House of Saud only help 4 countries? What’s wrong with the other 6?

  2. 2
    Al Superczynski Said:
    January:04:2005 - 06:53 

    And what’s with a puny $10 million in aid from oil-rich Saudia Arabia? Talk about stingy…

  3. 3
    d-rod Said:
    January:07:2005 - 18:03 

    In a 2001 interview with PBS, Saudi ambassador, Bandar bin Sultan acknowledges massive corruption to the tune of $50 billion USD:

    “But the way I answer the corruption charges is this. In the last 30 years, we have implemented a development program that was approximately … close to $400 billion worth, OK? Now, look at the whole country, where it was, where it is now. And I am confident after you look at it, you could not have done all of that for less than, let’s say, $350 billion.

    If you tell me that building this whole country, and spending $350 billion out of $400 billion, that we misused or got corrupted with $50 billion, I’ll tell you, “Yes.” But I’ll take that any time. There are so many countries in the Third World that have oil that are still 30 years behind. But, more important, more important — who are you to tell me this? … What I’m trying to tell you is, so what? We did not invent corruption, nor did those dissidents, who are so genius, discover it. This
    happened since Adam and Eve. … I mean, this is human nature. But we are not as bad as you think. …”

    The generosity of the Saudi ruling family in only stealing 12.5% is astounding and grossly underappreciated of course, while when it comes to genuine charities actually helping mostly Muslim Tsunami survivors, the Saudi people raise three times more than the government’s current figure and the fundraising still has a way to go before it matches contributions to more questionable charities enefiting suicide bombers.

    Doesn’t something seem very wrong here?

  4. 4
    John Said:
    January:07:2005 - 18:17 

    Sure there’s something wrong. The popular fundraising, by outstripping what the government had dedicated, has created an embarassment. I think you’ll see something coming from the Saudi government upping their contributions in the next day or so.

    I think more to the point, however, is how this indicates the level to which Saudi citizens take their reponsibilities toward charitable giving. There’s a lot of money in the country, but even poor Saudis have a religious obligation–which they take seriously–to donate. Even if a every Saudi were to donate a single dollar, that still close to $17 million. And with very few controls over charities prior to 9/11, I think it’s pretty easy to see how money went astray.

    As far as Bandar’s quote goes; he’s right, he acknowledges the problem. What is not said though–and it sure doesn’t fit into a sound-bite–is how what we call corruption (and he used the phrase in our sense) is not seen as exactly that in most of Asia. This is a complex issue of responsibility of patrons toward their clients. It’s expected that one takes advantage of one’s position to gain wealth. And it’s accepted, as long as that money gets spread around equitably.

    You err, though, in taking the $350 billion as a factual number. Bandar was speaking hypothetically. The number could be higher; it could be lower. Most of the money misdirected in development projects is through excessive commissions. If those commissions–which every country, including the US uses–were at a more realistic level, then the excessive costs would probably be reduced by half.

    It’s a scandal to us, but the normal course of business there.

    I say this not to denegrate or patronize Arab society, nor to say simply, “different customs”. I’m pointing it out to show that different cultures expect different kinds of performance from their leaders–political or otherwise.

    I’m certainly not asking that one accept these practices, but noting that they are, factually, the way things work in traditional societies.. Check out David Pryce-Jones’ The Closed Circle if you’re interested in just how client/patron relationships work in traditional societies. While his book focuses on Arabs, I’ve found the same rules apply across Asia, Africa, and large swathes of Mediterranean Europe and Latin America.

    This isn’t fixed behavior. It has changed dramatically across the world, including Saudi Arabia. Legislation has been issued that puts certain people off-limits as far as commission-gathering goes. It also limits the amount of commissions (sometimes, zero) on certain types of procurement, for example, arms. More changes are needed, certainly.

  5. 5
    Hyscience Trackbacked With:
    January:09:2005 - 02:04 

    I have been called to task in matters of fact by a reader/blogger who I believe to be all too quick to defend the Saudis. But my philosophical difference with John at Crossroads Arabia doesn’t translate as my being unwilling to accept constructive cr…

  6. 6
    John Said:
    January:09:2005 - 03:16 

    Pistole’s comments were from 2003. In October 2004, Juan Zarate–who also testified in the March 2004 Congressional hearing you cite–said before the House Financial Services Subcommittee:

    Saudi Arabia has issued comprehensive new restrictions on the financial activities of Saudi charities, including the following:

    * Charitable accounts can only be opened in Saudi Riyals;

    * Enhanced customer identification requirements apply to charitable accounts;

    * Each charity must consolidate its banking activity in one principal account. Although sub-accounts are permitted for branches, they are restricted to receiving deposits – all withdrawals and transfers must be serviced through the main account;

    * No cash disbursements are permitted from charitable accounts; payments are only allowed by check payable to the first beneficiary and must be deposited in a Saudi bank;

    * No ATM or credit cards may be issued against a charitable account (all outstanding ATM and credit cards for such accounts have been canceled);

    * No transfers from charitable accounts are permitted outside of Saudi Arabia.

    Moreover, the Kingdom has banned cash contributions in local mosques and removed cash collection boxes for charities from shopping malls.

    In some respects, these restrictions go further than those of any country in the world. We commend Saudi Arabia for taking these important steps and urge its officials to ensure that these new rules are rapidly implemented and enforced fully and vigorously. That being said, we will continue to work directly with the Saudi government on the concerns we have about the vulnerability of their charity – often sent to crisis regions – being abused by terrorists and will continue to press to see the implementation of the new structure within the Kingdom.

    Beyond these actions, the U.S. Government has created a close agent-to-agent working relationship with the Saudis to deal with terrorist financing specifically. The Joint Terrorist Financing Task Force, based in Riyadh, began operations last fall. Through this Task Force, investigators from the FBI and from the IRS Criminal Investigation Division (IRS-CID) have gained unprecedented access to Saudi accounts, witnesses, and other information. The Task Force agents both provide and receive investigative lead information on various terrorist financing matters. In addition, U.S. agents seek assistance from Saudi investigators in following terrorist financing, and in using that information to identify or attack terrorist cells and operations. Information received by the U.S. agents is passed through FBI’s Terrorist Financing Operations Section in Washington to the interagency Joint Terrorist Task Forces (JTTFs) nationwide.

    Consistent attention and frank discussion with our Saudi partners has been an important part of our campaign to de-legitimize and disrupt terrorist support and financing in the Persian Gulf. This is why I, along with others in the U.S. government, spend a considerable amount of time focusing with Saudi Arabia, often in the Kingdom, on particular areas of concern. This constructive engagement which has produced real results must and will continue.

    Almost weekly, the Saudis are involved in shoot-outs within the country against terrorists and have been very successfull, even by FBI standards, in fighting a mutual war against terror. There have been results. You seem not to want to see them.

    That you cannot acknowledge the progress that has been made since 9/11 leads me to question your sincerity in actual dialogue.

  7. 7
    Osama_Been_Forgotten Said:
    January:10:2005 - 15:56 

    Same baloney goes on here in the US. “Christian” charities supported bombing abortion clinics. “Irish” charities supported the IRA.

    Though I’d be happier if Saudi Arabia (and all nations) had a free government, with open practices (hell, the US could use some openness) – we can’t discount the progress they’ve made. Still just a drop in the bucket compared to what we could accomplish if international banking, in general, were reformed. Alas, the white-collar criminal war profiteers who run the US wouldn’t be able to launder their money either if we did that. So we must make do with the staged “reform” – both by the Saudi govt. and the US.

  8. 8
    Osama_Been_Forgotten Said:
    January:10:2005 - 16:06 

    . . . forgot to add. . .
    US Taxpayer dollars also illegally went to fund “Contras” in Central America, many of whom conducted activities akin to terrorism.

  9. 9
    mary at exit zero Said:
    January:10:2005 - 22:28 

    OBF – Al Qaeda and other Islamist organizations consist of well-trained state financed paramilitaries. According to FBI records, they receive many millions of dollars in donations per year. Comparing this well-organized military operation to small indigenous groups like the IRA is like comparing Microsoft to a lemonade stand.

    If you want to talk about white collar war profiteers, why confine yourself to the US? Kofi Annan and the Oil For Food program makes Halliburton look like small change.

    Another good example of war/terror profiteering is Swiss Banker Ahmed Huber, radical Islamist and (not coincidentally) a big fan of Hitler. He’s also a good friend of many Gulf State Royals. From Salon Magazine:

    According to an unpublished list obtained by Salon, the Al Taqwa bank, part of a network of financial companies named by the Bush administration as a major source and distributor of funds for Osama bin Laden’s terrorist operations, has shareholders that include prominent Arab figures from numerous countries in the Middle East. Among the shareholders are the grand mufti of the United Arab Emirates and prominent families in the UAE and Kuwait. Two sisters of Osama bin Laden are also on the list, undermining the bin Laden family’s claim that it separated itself from his terrorist pursuits after he was expelled from Saudi Arabia in 1994.
    Ahmed Huber, a Swiss director of the bank who is a radical Islamist and Hitler admirer, acknowledged in 1995 that wealthy Saudi Arabians were large contributors to the Al Taqwa bank. The just-revealed list of shareholders demonstrates further connections between important individuals in moderate Middle Eastern countries and a financial network allegedly vital to bin Laden. ..

    The FBI may have known who the shareholders were for as long as four years. There is also evidence that Swiss authorities have since the mid-1990s refused to cooperate with international intelligence inquiries into the bank’s activities. Swiss officials have said they were aware of reports that Al Taqwa was connected to terrorist groups, but there was never sufficient evidence to merit a search warrant…

  10. 10
    John Said:
    January:11:2005 - 10:42 


    Your calling the IRA a “small indigenous group” is pretty silly. It was a multi-million dollar terror organization which raised vast sums to support its activities from terror to charities. In the US and around the world. All from people who bought into its political message and viewpoint. Did the Americans who supported it believe they were only building churches and schools? Doubtful.

    Indigenous? Is that why the IRA was involved in the Hizbollah camps in the Beqaa Valley of Lebanon; in the camps in Tripoli, Libya; in the camps in Yemen; in Central and South America?

    Banks are held responsible–at least in part–for the activities of their clients, but only if they do not follow banking laws and regulations. Anti-terror banking laws are not applied uniformly around the world. Those with bad intentions go where they laws are loosely applied or not at all. Because Saudi Arabia does have generally effective banking laws, Saudi banks are not seen as major violators of banking laws. The Al-Taqwa bank, which operates out of Switzerland, is liable to Swiss laws and those international laws the Swiss choose to apply. Anti-terror banking laws are not among them, for the most part. Your beef here is with the Swiss.

    Are there Saudis funding Al-Qaeda and UBL? I’m sure there are. That is a question being investigated (as Zarate from Treasury explains in the Congressional testimony you linked in an earlier comment). To date, Saudi government involvement has not been demonstrated.

    The problem that Treasury notes as particularly difficult is that money is actually moving as cash, not through banks until the final stages of terrorist acts. Mohammad Atta had perfectly legitimate bank accounts and credit cards through American banks. He was the terrorist, not the American banks he dealt with.

  11. 11
    mary at exit zero Said:
    January:12:2005 - 01:40 

    Your calling the IRA a “small indigenous group” is pretty silly. It was a multi-million dollar terror organization which raised vast sums to support its terror activities to charities. In the US and around the world. All from people who bought into its political message and viewpoint. Did the Americans who supported it believe they were only building churches and schools? Doubtful.

    As the granddaughter of a soldier who fought with the IRA (they wore uniforms in those days) in the War of Independence (1922), and as the granddaughter of 4 Irish immigrants, I think I know something about the IRA (or the Provisional IRA, formed in the late 60’s, now the real IRA)

    The original IRA was a military organization that successfully won independence for the South of Ireland in the early ‘20’s. The terrorist group, the Provisional, Marxist inspired IRA, was formed in 1970. They hoped to achieve independence for Northern Ireland.

    Unlike Saudi-funded Hamas’ goal of chasing the Jews into the sea, the IRA had no desire to take over London and chase the British into the sea. The PIRA was funded, partially, by Noraid, which had some American-non-state contributors. It was not state supported. The only Irish paramilitary group that may have been state supported were the Loyalist groups.

    Unlike the worldwide system of Jihad Madrassas, NORAID did not fund schools worldwide that raised children to be paramilitaries to fight in foreign wars.

    The goals and the terrorists that made up the provisional (Marxist/terrorist) IRA were entirely indigenous. Due to a current lack of Irish and American support, the wealthy terrorist-thugs of the ‘70’s are now the useless, poor drug-dealing thugs of the ‘real IRA’

    Compared to the many millions of dollars that Saudis have invested, and are still investing in terrorism worldwide, comparing the current Islamist jihad to Noraid is still like comparing Microsoft to a lemonade stand.

    That said, despite the fact that I believe in Irish independence, I believe that the Irish did not do enough to decimate the Provisional IRA members within their ranks. I wish that every last member of that terrorist/Marxist organization had been either captured or killed, and that every member of NORAID had suffered the same fate.

    Can you say the same thing about the current Saudi supporters of terror?

  12. 12
    John Said:
    January:12:2005 - 02:02 

    There’s not a whole lot you can tell me about the IRA (in its PIRA or Real forms). My mother’s family was Irish, but from both the North & South, Protestant & Catholic. I learned very early which uncles you said “Derry” to and to which you had to say “Londonderry”, at the pain of a whack in the head!

    I also had the task of covering N. Ireland as part of my assignment as Information Officer at the Embassy in London. In Belfast, I met with Sinn Fein and IRA leadership.

    Now that the IRA lacks the millions it got from its US supporters of terror, it has indeed turned into thugs and drug dealers-and not just the Real IRA. RIRA are still the most dedicated of the terrorists, but the “normal” IRA thugs are still out there kneecapping their ways in petty gang wars.

    Certainly, the goals of the IRA were restricted to Ireland. Their activities and fund raising were not, witness the bombings across the UK.

    Their goal was not to chase the British from London, but it was certainly to “cleanse” N. Ireland of its Protestant, Britith population. Only when that proved impossible did they lower their sights to a more achievable call for justice in employment opportunities, housing, etc.

    They certainly had a legitimate beef. Their methodology was that of terror, however. Whether or not it was solely inspired by religion is rather beside the point.

    You don’t think the IRA’s sending politicians around the Irish diaspora world to raise consciousness and funds is equivalent to the religious missions of the Saudis? I recall even Eamon de Valera’s–then the former Irish PM– visits to my hometown in MA where he stoked the fires. Saoirse and An Phoblacht may not be quite as radical as some of the imams, but that’s a difference in degree, not kind.

    I see no difference whatsoever between the funding of the PIRA by private American citizens through NORAID and the funding of Hamas by private Saudi citizens. They are equally reprehensible. The level of funding is immaterial.

    That particular struggle to reclaim occupied territory went on for only 400 years. But it seems, finally, to be reaching a resolution. I hope the Palestinian issue doesn’t take nearly as long.

  13. 13
    mary at exit zero Said:
    January:12:2005 - 11:48 

    I see no difference whatsoever between the funding of the PIRA by private American citizens through NORAID and the funding of Hamas by private Saudi citizens. They are equally reprehensible.

    If you believe that the funding and support of terrorism is reprehensible, do you agree that the supporters of terrorism should be punished by arrest, prosecution and/or death?

  14. 14
    John Said:
    January:12:2005 - 13:20 

    Mary, Let’s wait until any of those penalties is imposed upon a senior Senator from Massachusetts, plus a few thousand ordinary Americans who donated to NORAID before I give a categoric answer.

  15. 15
    mary at exit zero Said:
    January:13:2005 - 01:20 

    Let’s wait until any of those penalties is imposed upon a senior Senator from Massachusetts

    I’d be happy to see that :-)

    Actually, by supporters of terrorism, I mean the people who run the organizations. While I would be happy to see all of the merchants in NYC who have collection boxes out for Hamas thrown in jail, it would make more sense to target the organization (Hamas, the Holy Land Foundation) itself.

    Do you agree that the organizations that support terrorism (ie, NORAID) should be punished by arrest, prosecution and/or death?

  16. 16
    Jhn1 Said:
    January:15:2005 - 02:54 

    Actually, while I would support jail and financial penalties against terrorist supporters of both religions, the relatively possible solution is tax based.

    Have the IRS (Old joke: the difference between the IRA and the IRS? Not much.) define the donation reciepients as not qualifying as charitable organizations and tax the person sending the donations. Tax, as in going back in years and relevant fines and interest for non-payment. When going back in years, tax the interest and the principal.

  17. 17
    John Said:
    January:15:2005 - 03:24 

    Consider, though, that we’re talking about small donations–at least through NorAid: $5, $50, $100. Paying taxes on those amounts is not much of a burden.

    Even compounded, they wouldn’t represent much more than a nuisance.

    For major donors, tax penalties, perhaps even a multiple of the amount donated, might be persuasive.

    For smaller donors, fines and jail sentences might work. (That’d definitely work for major donors, too, of course.)

    I no longer support the death penalty under any circumstances, by any means, so that option is out by my standards.

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