U.S. FREEZES HAMAS ASSETS

NYT has the story:

President Bush ordered the Treasury Department today to block and freeze the assets of six top leaders of the militant Palestinian group Hamas and five charities based outside the United States that administration officials said help finance Hamas.

Mr. Bush said he was taking the action in response to Hamas’s claim of responsibility for the bus bombing in Israel on Tuesday that killed 20 people.

“By claiming responsibility for the despicable act of terror on Aug. 19, Hamas has reaffirmed that it is a terrorist organization committed to violence against Israelis and to undermining progress toward peace between Israel and the Palestinian people,” Mr. Bush said in a written statement issued by the White House as the president toured a dam here.

As if we needed proof of this?

It is the first time that the United States has gone beyond acting against the military wing of Hamas and tried to shut down the political wing that provides social services and relief assistance.

Mr. Bush’s announcement is a victory for Ariel Sharon, the Israeli prime minister, and other officials who have argued for years that charitable groups tied to Hamas serve as a conduit for financing terrorism. And Hamas has been staunchly opposed to the so-called road map, the American-led peace plan that lays out the foundation for creating a Palestinian state in coexistence with Israel.

In taking this action, Mr. Bush risks fueling anti-American anger among Palestinians who not only depend on assistance from Hamas but also see it as an integral part of their lives. Hamas also has close ties to Arab leaders throughout the Middle East, and many of its biggest financial supporters come from the wealthy elite of Saudi Arabia.

The president’s move could also open another rift between the United States and Europe, because European leaders have thus far made a careful distinction between the military and political wings of Hamas. The Europeans contend that the organization’s charitable institutions provide much-needed services — and hope — to destitute Palestinians.

The United States will need European support if its freeze is to have any practical effect, because four of the five charities cited today are based in European countries while the fifth is based in Lebanon.

In Washington, a senior administration official conceded that the organizations had few if any assets in the United States.

Money is, of course, fungible. This makes the distinction between the wings of a terrorist group rather immaterial. Money donated to the “nice” wing can easily be shifted to the “not nice” wing.

FILED UNDER: Terrorism
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. Dave says:

    As if we needed proof of this?

    Well, you and I don’t.

    I suspect, though, that there’s a large minority *CoughLeftiesCough* who do need it stated very simply like this… not to mention any European leaders who happened to pay the slightest attention also only understand small, simple words.

    Er, wait. I take it back, he should have used large, vague words for them, they don’t understand ‘simple’ phrases.

  2. John says:

    Uh, as a member of the anti-war left, I fully agree with this action. What I have a problem with is that there is all stick and no carrot. Part of the problem with these Hamas related charities is that they actually really do humanitarian work. And so cutting off the money that was being funneled through them to terrorists by cutting off their funds results in the cessation of the actual humanitarian work they did do.

    So to my untrained eyes, it looks like all punishment and no compassion. Think of the propaganda coup the US could have if it did crack down on these charities, but then replaced the work the charities were doing with either government aid or private aid. Made a big deal about it, rather than just making a big deal about cracking down on terrorists. Of course, that would take actual work and the investment of money in humanitarian organizations that we’ve cleared and agree with. But since there’s a large minority of the *CoughRightiesCough* who will only give up their cash when they pry it out of their cold, dead fingers, this kind of stuff doesn’t even happen. Not even considered.

    Thus, the effect is that we lose out terribly on the propaganda front. And this is a long term loss to our anti-terrorist cause. The battle won’t be won by the iron fist alone. It’s a battle for the heart and souls of these people. Simply being stern and disciplinarian ain’t going to work in the long run. And this is a long term effort.