U.S. was hin­dered on sanc­tions

The Washington Post Sunday - - FRONT PAGE - BY JOBY WARRICK joby.warrick@wash­post.com

Saudi Ara­bia helped block a plan to im­pose mea­sures against ISIS.

Saudi Ara­bia, the oil-rich king­dom touted by Pres­i­dent Trump as a key ally in the fight against the Is­lamic State, has helped block a Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion pro­posal to im­pose sanc­tions against a Saudi branch of the ter­ror­ist group, doc­u­ments show.

The plan to add the Is­lamic State’s Saudi af­fil­i­ate to a U.N. list of ter­ror­ist groups was qui­etly killed two weeks ago in a bu­reau­cratic ma­neu­ver at the U.N. Se­cu­rity Coun­cil, records show. U.S. of­fi­cials fa­mil­iar with the move said the Saudis ob­jected to the pub­lic ac­knowl­edg­ment of the ex­is­tence of a sep­a­rate Saudi off­shoot of the ter­ror­ist group in­side the king­dom.

“They don’t want to ad­mit they have an is­sue in their back yard,” said a U.S of­fi­cial fa­mil­iar with the events, who spoke on the con­di­tion of anonymity to dis­cuss sen­si­tive diplo­macy.

The news of the ma­neu­ver comes as Saudi Ara­bia hosts Trump in Riyadh in his first visit to a for­eign cap­i­tal since be­com­ing pres­i­dent. U.S. and Saudi of­fi­cials are ex­pected to use the visit to un­der­score close co­op­er­a­tion be­tween the two coun­tries in bat­tling Is­lamist ex­trem­ist groups. Riyadh has con­trib­uted money, arms and fighter jets to the in­ter­na­tional coali­tion fight­ing the Is­lamic State in Syria.

The ter­ror­ist group in 2014 de­clared the ex­is­tence of a sep­a­rate Saudi prov­ince, or wilayat, with its own cadre of Saudi op­er­a­tives seek­ing to over­throw the monar­chy. The group has since claimed re­spon­si­bil­ity for sev­eral at­tacks in­side the coun­try, in­clud­ing a sui­cide bomb­ing at a mosque in 2015 that killed 15 peo­ple.

The Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion’s pro­posal to add the “Is­lamic State in Saudi Ara­bia” to a list of U.N.-sanctioned ter­ror­ist groups was for­mally blocked on May 5 by Sene­gal and Egypt, two mem­bers of the U.N. Se­cu­rity Coun­cil. Egyp­tian diplo­mats ex­plained to their U.S. coun­ter­parts that they acted at the be­hest of Saudi Ara­bia, ac­cord­ing to U.S. of­fi­cials and in­ter­nal emails de­scrib­ing the ex­change. It was the sec­ond time in a year that Saudi of­fi­cials in­ter­vened to pre­vent the lo­cal af­fil­i­ate from be­ing added to the U.N. ter­ror­ist list.

A se­nior Saudi of­fi­cial, speak­ing by tele­phone from Riyadh, ac­knowl­edged his gov­ern­ment’s op­po­si­tion to the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion’s plan. He said for­mal recog­ni­tion of a sep­a­rate Saudi branch of the Is­lamic State would have been both un­fair to Saudi Ara­bia and an ex­ag­ger­a­tion of the lo­cal cell’s sig­nif­i­cance.

“You can’t equate ISIS in the king­dom with ISIS in Syria and Iraq,” said the Saudi of­fi­cial, who also spoke on the con­di­tion of anonymity to dis­cuss U.N. de­lib­er­a­tions. “There is no ‘Is­lamic State in Saudi Ara­bia’ just as there is no ‘Is­lamic State in Bri­tain’ or ‘Is­lamic State in France.’ In those coun­tries there are ter­ror­ist cells, but they don’t con­trol in­fra­struc­ture.”

Ac­ced­ing to the U.S. pro­posal could have re­sulted in “rep­u­ta­tional risks” for the king­dom, pos­si­bly in­clud­ing losses in tourism rev­enue and higher in­sur­ance pre­mi­ums, the of­fi­cial said.

Saudi Ara­bia is one of sev­eral coun­tries that have op­posed U.S. ef­forts to add lo­cal branches of the Is­lamic State to the U.N. ter­ror­ist list. Rus­sian diplo­mats ear­lier this month quashed a U.S. pro­posal to sanc­tion Is­lamic State chap­ters in Libya, Afghanistan and Ye­men.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.