Obama administration officials were “keen to accommodate” a request from the Islamic African Relief Agency that it remove the charity’s terrorist designation, according to the Middle East Forum.
In fact, the Islamic group, which was tied to al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden, received U.S. taxpayer dollars when the dispute was going on.
MEF obtained copies of emails showing that Jeremy Weinstein, deputy ambassador to the U.N. under Ambassador Samantha Powers, made the request to John Smith of the Office of Foreign Assets control in the Treasury Department.
He asked for a “unilateral re-evaluation of a terrorism designation.”
The Islamic African Relief Agency, or IARA, was established by Omar Al-Bashir, the now-deposed Islamic dictator of Sudan who likely will end up in the International Criminal Court on charges of crimes against humanity.
IARA was given the terror designation in 2004 because of its connections to Bin Laden. In fact, it bought the satellite phone used to direct the 1998 bombings of U.S. embassies in Tanzania and Kenya, MEF noted.
The charity, consequently, lost its “special consultative status” at the U.N.
But it protested the designation and sought to have it removed.
IARA lobbied at the U.N. with claims it had been wrongly accused because it was Islamic.
Weinstein told Smith: “An NGO (the Islamic African Relief Agency) continues to argue publicly at the U.N. that they have been wrongfully designated by the United States Department of Treasury, that they are a small Islamic NGO involved in humanitarian work, and that they are being unfairly targeted because they are Islamic … [redacted] … We understand that OFAC has not reviewed this case since the designation was made in 2004. Would it be possible to initiate a review without a formal request from [the agency]?”
MEF said that was “remarkable” because there’s a specific process in the law through which an organization can appeal its designation.
“There is no provision for a unilateral evaluation,” the report said.
The process was well-known, MEF said, because when IARA contacted USAID asking for help, officials said it was not their job to help obtain a new designation. A State Department official said the same.
“However, when Weinstein reached out to Treasury, he clearly expressed a desire to circumvent the usual process,” MEF said.
Smith responded that he already had asked for a review.
“This much is clear: Senior Obama administration officials unilaterally sought, and conducted a review of ISRA’s terrorist status, based only on vague complaints made at the United Nations,” MEF said.
The designation ultimately remained, and the organization later apparently failed, since its Facebook page is inactive and its website removed.
MEF noted that even as the dispute was developing, IARA was given some $120,000 by World Vision, a payment authorized by the Obama administration.
The report explained IARA was a “local implementing partner” for World Vision despite the U.S. sanctions, “because of its closeness with Bashir.”