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Leaked Presidential Candidate Hillary Clinton Email suggests Gulf Allies’ Support for Islamic State Terrorist Group

The accusation is one among thousands of messages that were stolen from the personal email of Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta and released on the Wikileaks website

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FILE- Religious flags, photographs and tributes to 21 victims of a suicide bombing, claimed by the Islamic State group, of a Shiite mosque are seen attached to their graves at a cemetery in Qudeeh, Saudi Arabia, May 30, 2015. VOA
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Foreign policy experts and analysts say they are perplexed by a hacked email in which Democratic presidential candidate and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton appears to accuse the Saudi and Qatari governments of providing logistical and financial support to Islamic State extremists.

The accusation is one among thousands of messages that were stolen from the personal email of Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta and released on the Wikileaks website.

The lengthy message is dated Aug. 17, 2014, and comes from the email address “hrod17@clintonemail.com.” It begins with a note saying “Sources include Western intelligence, US intelligence and sources in the region” and comprises a broad policy discussion of how to deal with Middle East terrorism.

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It says in part, “We need to use our diplomatic and more traditional intelligence assets to bring pressure on the governments of Qatar and Saudi Arabia, which are providing clandestine financial and logistic support to ISIL and other radical Sunni groups in the region.” ISIL is an acronym used by the U.S. government for Islamic State.

Clinton’s presidential campaign did not respond to several attempts and requests by VOA to verify the authenticity of the emails released by WikiLeaks.

More specificity

While Saudi Arabia and other U.S. allies, or individuals close to their governments, have long been suspected of financing extremist groups in the region, this accusation is more specific than anything uttered publicly by the Obama administration. It also is bewildering to terrorism experts, however, including some in the U.S. intelligence community, who say they never have seen evidence of direct Saudi or Qatari support for IS.

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“I have myself [during my term] never seen intelligence from the United States government that says the Saudi government, the government, is giving any help of any kind, any material assistance, any financial assistance, to a terrorist group,” former U.S. Ambassador to Syria Robert Ford told VOA on Wednesday.

Ford added, “However, there is a lot of information about Saudi private individuals, including charities, and particular business people, as well as others in the Gulf, private citizens, who have provided help.”

He said that he was not convinced the leaked emails were “genuine,” and that he could not “speculate” on the motivation behind the leak.

FILE - U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry answers a question during a news conference with then-Qatari Foreign Minister Khalid Al Attiya at the U.S. Embassy in Paris, Sept. 8, 2013. VOA
FILE – U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry answers a question during a news conference with then-Qatari Foreign Minister Khalid Al Attiya at the U.S. Embassy in Paris, Sept. 8, 2013. VOA

Washington has viewed the governments of Saudi Arabia and Qatar as strong partners in the Gulf area for regional security and counterterrorism efforts, and it has argued that terrorist financing comes from wealthy individuals, rather than governments.

“I think we’ve seen over the past 10 years a huge shift in the Saudis’ approach to terrorist financing. And I really do regard them as our number one partner in the Gulf in our efforts against terrorist financing,” Daniel Glaser, assistant treasury secretary for terrorist financing, said last Thursday in a webcast from the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.

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In a statement to VOA on Wednesday, the Saudi Embassy said “the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia does not comment on leaked documents. However, any claims that the Saudi government funds Daesh [IS] are preposterous and simply defy logic.”

The statement used an alternative name for Islamic State terrorist group.

According to the State Department’s annual Country Reports on Terrorism, issued this June, both the Saudi and Qatari governments are members of a regional financial action task force that combats terrorist financing.

‘Appropriate’ to review

A former senior congressional staff member, though, who wished not to be named, argued that a policy review on the Gulf allies would be “appropriate.”

One of the tools that could be used to accomplish this is that Congress could authorize the president through legislation to designate a country as a “Jurisdiction of Terrorism Financing Concern.” That designation triggers a menu of penalties and provides the president with additional leverage to pressure foreign governments that are failing to shut down terrorist financiers and facilitators.

“The Saudis and Qataris know very well the suspicion of their intentions and their actions exists in the U.S.,” Middle East Institute scholar Daniel Serwer told VOA, adding that Washington has yet to “reach any definitive conclusion” about how to stabilize the situation and reduce the level of violence, given a policy that “has not been stupendously successful” in the Middle East.

While expressing concerns about Wikileaks, the State Department declined to comment on the veracity of the leaked documents.

“What I can tell you is that Qatar and Saudi Arabia are members of the counter-ISIL coalition and have been contributing members of that coalition pretty much since its founding,” said spokesman John Kirby in a recent briefing.

Kirby added, “We rely a great deal on their efforts to help us counter terrorism in the region,” particularly the Islamic State militants.

FILE - Vice President Joe Biden speaks to students, faculty and staff at Harvard University's Kennedy School of Government in Cambridge, Mass., Oct. 2, 2014. VOA
FILE – Vice President Joe Biden speaks to students, faculty and staff at Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government in Cambridge, Mass., Oct. 2, 2014. VOA

In October 2014, Vice President Joe Biden once apologized to regional allies after bluntly expressing concerns about their role in the rise of the Islamic State militant group in a speech at Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government.

“The Saudis, the Emirates, et cetera,” said Biden, “what were they doing? They were so determined to take down [Syrian President Bashar al-]Assad, and essentially have a proxy Sunni-Shia war, what did they do? They poured hundreds of millions of dollars and tens, thousands of tons of weapons into anyone who would fight against Assad — except that the people who were being supplied, [they] were al-Nusra, and al-Qaida, and the extremist elements of jihadis who were coming from other parts of the world.”

These policies ended up helping militants linked to al-Qaida and ultimately IS, according to Biden.

Bilateral tension

Glaser’s praise for Saudi Arabia as the number one U.S. partner in combating terrorist financing came at a time of serious strain between Washington and Riyadh over other issues.

The U.S. is reviewing its support for the monarchy after the Saudi bombing of civilians at a funeral in Yemen.

Moreover, the U.S. Congress has voted to override President Barack Obama’s veto of a bill that would allow lawsuits against Saudi Arabia for the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. (VOA)

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FIFA World Cup 2018: Indian Cuisine becomes the most sought after in Moscow

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Indian cuisine in FIFA World cup
Indian dishes available in Moscow during FIFA World Cup 2018, representational image, wikimedia commons

June 17, 2018:

Restaurateurs Prodyut and Sumana Mukherjee have not only brought Indian cuisine to the ongoing FIFA World Cup 2018 here but also plan to dish out free dinner to countrymen if Argentina wins the trophy on July 15.

Based in Moscow for the last 27 years, Prodyut and Sumana run two Indian eateries, “Talk Of The Town” and “Fusion Plaza”.

You may like to read more on Indian cuisine: Indian ‘masala’, among other condiments spicing up global food palate.

Both restaurants serve popular Indian dishes like butter chicken, kebabs and a varied vegetarian spread.

During the ongoing FIFA World Cup 2018, there will be 25 per cent discount for those who will possess a Fan ID (required to watch World Cup games).

There will also be gifts and contests on offers during matches in both the restaurants to celebrate the event.

The Mukherjees, hailing from Kolkata, are die-hard fans of Argentina. Despite Albiceleste drawing 1-1 with Iceland in their group opener with Lionel Messi failing to sparkle, they believe Jorge Sampaoli’s team can go the distance.

“I am an Argentina fan. I have booked tickets for a quarterfinal match, a semifinal and of course the final. If Argentina goes on to lift

During the World Cup, there will be 25 per cent discount for those who will possess a Fan ID (required to watch World Cup games).

There will also be gifts and contests on offers during matches in both the restaurants to celebrate the event.

FIFA World Cup 2018 Russia
FIFA World Cup 2018, Wikimedia Commons.

“We have been waiting for this World Cup. Indians come in large numbers during the World Cup and we wanted these eateries to be a melting point,” he added.

According to Cutting Edge Events, FIFA’s official sales agency in India for the 2018 World Cup, India is amongst the top 10 countries in terms of number of match tickets bought.

Read more about Indian cuisine abroad: Hindoostane Coffee House: London’s First Indian Restaurant.

Prodyut came to Moscow to study engineering and later started working for a pharmaceutical company here before trying his hand in business. Besides running the two restaurants with the help of his wife, he was into the distribution of pharmaceutical products.

“After Russia won the first match of the World Cup, the footfall has gone up considerably. The Indians are also flooding in after the 6-9 p.m. game. That is the time both my restaurants remain full,” Prodyut said.

There are also plans to rope in registered fan clubs of Latin American countries, who will throng the restaurants during matches and then follow it up with after-game parties till the wee hours.

“I did get in touch with some of the fan clubs I had prior idea about. They agreed to come over and celebrate the games at our joints. Those will be gala nights when both eateries will remain open all night for them to enjoy,” Prodyut said.

Watching the World Cup is a dream come true for the couple, Sumana said.

“We want to make the Indians who have come here to witness the spectacle and feel at home too. We always extend a helping hand and since we are from West Bengal, we make special dishes for those who come from Bengal,” she added. (IANS)