WASHINGTON: Former US President Barack Obama’s administration knowingly funded a sanctioned affiliate of the pan-Islamist banned terror outfit al-Qaida, as per a recently released report of a US Senate committee.
The report is based on a probe by the office of the Senate Finance Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) into the Obama administration’s approval of a $200,000 grant to a US evangelical aid organisation World Vision for the al-Qaida affiliate, Islamic Relief Agency (ISRA).
Incidentally, World Vision works in India as well and is a member of InterAction, America’s largest alliance of international non-profit organisations. Last year, IANS in a major expose revealed how the US government agencies have been funding the Islamic charities linked to terror groups based in Pakistan and the Middle East through InterAction.
InterAction’s Together Project involves the most controversial Islamic charities including Helping Hand for Relief & Development (HHRD), which works with the charitable and political wings of Lashkar-e-Taiba, the Pakistani terror outfit directed against India in Kashmir.
The US Senate probe into World Vision and its ties with ISRA had been initiated in 2019 after the Middle East Forum’s Sam Westrop and Cliff Smith exposed the details through a series of articles published in 2018.
In January 2014, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) awarded World Vision a grant of $723,405 grant for providing humanitarian services to the conflict-torn Blue Nile region of Sudan. World Vision outsourced the services to ISRA, with which it had collaborated earlier too.
But ISRA has been sanctioned by the US government since 2004. World Vision in its defence has claimed that it was unaware about the sanctions against ISRA over its ties to terrorism.
Though the Senate committee report has exonerated World Vision of any intentional wrongdoing, it lashed out at the charity for illegally sending government funds to ISRA.
Though World Vision was notified of ISRA’s status as a sanctioned entity in September 2014 and its payments halted, yet it sent requests that ISRA be awarded a temporary licence to complete the contract. Despite official confirmation about ISRA’s sanctioned status, the US State Department on May 4, 2015, asked the Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) to oblige World Vision.
The OFAC granted World Vision the licence to pay ISRA $125,000 for its services but later sent it a “cautionary letter” informing it that its collaboration with ISRA violated the Global Terrorism Sanction Regulations.
In its report, the Senate committee report concluded that World Vision had “access to the appropriate public information and should have known how, but failed to, properly vet ISRA as a sub-grantee, resulting in the transfer of US taxpayer dollars to an organisation with an extensive history of supporting terrorist organisations and terrorists, including Osama Bin Laden.”
Describing World Vision’s vetting as “borderline negligent”, the US Senate committee said the organisation “ignored elementary level investigative procedures.” World Vision, it said, has a “duty to ensure that funds acquired from the US government or donated by Americans do not end up supporting terrorist activity.”
“Moreover, although we find no reason to doubt World Vision’s assertion that the funds in their entirety were used by ISRA for humanitarian purposes, that money inevitably aids their terrorist activities,” the Senate committee said.