Hamas made headlines yesterday when the organization’s West Bank boss, Salah Arouri, finally admitted from his place of exile in Turkey that the group was responsible for the June kidnapping of three Israeli teens. Until now, Hamas leaders blessed the act but denied responsibility, and skeptics argued the kidnappers may have been acting alone. However, Arouri acknowledged at an Istanbul conference of the International Union of Muslim Scholars (IUMS) that Hamas’s military wing carried out the attack, and his remarks were soon confirmed on a website associated with Hamas.
Last month, Arouri himself had been blamed by Israel for orchestrating the kidnapping and was separately accused this week of planning a coup from Turkey against the Palestinian Authority. However, Washington still has not raised this issue with his Turkish hosts.
Indeed, Arouri’s IUMS panel was more broadly emblematic of the cozy ties that U.S. partners in the region have with terrorists such as Hamas. Indeed, in recent years Qatar, Turkey, and Kuwait have all become sources of concern for terrorism finance.
Sitting on the dais with Arouri yesterday was Yusuf Qaradawi, the Qatar-based cleric who runs IUMS. The firebrand preacher also founded the Union of Good, a fundraising network sanctioned by Washington for channeling money to Hamas. Qaradawi is so close to Qatar’s rulers that his sermons helped provoke a rupture in Doha’s regional ties last March. Secretary of State John Kerry has talked to his Qatari counterpart at least seventeen times since the start of violence in Gaza last month, but Qatar also hosts Khaled Meshal, the head of Hamas’s politburo, and is reported to be acting at times as a spoiler.
Turkey is believed to have hosted Arouri since 2012, where he has met with Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan and been permitted regular travel abroad. Turkey’s Deputy PM Emrullah Isler spoke alongside Arouri yesterday and received an award from IUMS to pass on to Erdogan, who had welcomed Qaradawi earlier in the week. Additionally, Ankara has allowed illicit finance to bolster Iran’s nuclear program and previously turned a blind eye the rise of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria.
Kuwait’s amir hosted Arouri on his most recent Hamas junket last month. This week Kuwaiti authorities arrested two men under U.S. sanctions for turning their country into the “epicenter” of fundraising for Syrian terrorists. However, both individuals were released only hours later, and local officials even hinted they would be exonerated. Turkey’s Isler visited Kuwait in April, where he made a show of support by meeting a Kuwaiti minister under U.S. pressure to resign over his support for terror finance.
Finally, it is worth noting that Arouri also shared the stage with Rachid Ghannouchi, who is the leader of Ennahda, Tunis’s political wing of the Muslim Brotherhood and the most powerful party in the Tunisian parliament. In a sense, his appearance this week is no surprise given that he sits on the board of IUMS and the Union has long been as a key element of the Brotherhood’s international network.
However, as a senior political figure in a country receiving Western aid, Ghannouchi should now be expected to answer some tough questions about whether he condones terrorist acts against children. Indeed, all of America’s interlocutors linked to IUMS should be held accountable for their implicit endorsement of terrorism.
[Panel at yesterday’s IUMS conference (Qaradawi far left, Arouri far right)
Source URL: https://twitter.com/iumsonline/status/502137954660536320 ]
David Andrew Weinberg is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies. @DavidAWeinberg