The UN’s top official for Iraq reportedly met with an individual on the Security Council’s own sanctions list who has been accused of funding al Qaeda in Iraq (AQI). UN representative Jan Kubis met with Muthanna Harith al Dari, who has been sanctioned by the UN, yesterday in Jordan, according to an article published online by Dari’s own extremist organization and other sources.
The story was broken by Zaid Oshana, a broadcaster for the US-funded, Arabic-language Radio Sawa. Oshana posted a photo of the purported meeting on Twitter along with the caption: “UN Envoy to #Iraq meets Sec.-Gen. of Association of Muslim Scholars who is associated with Al Qaeda according to UNSC.”
Indeed, the website for the Association of Muslim Scholars in Iraq, which Dari leads, carried a copy of the same photograph. An article posted on the association’s website notes that “the Secretary General of the Association of Muslim Scholars, Muthanna Harith al Dari, received… Jan Kubis, representative of the United Nations Secretary General in Iraq.” The article explains that Dari hosted Kubis, who serves as Ban Ki-Moon’s Special Representative for Iraq and as the Head of the UN Assistance Mission in Iraq, “at his residential headquarters in the Jordanian capital of Amman” on October 29.
Dari is subject to sanctions by the UN Security Council’s Al Qaeda Sanctions Committee, which claims that he “has provided financial support and other services to or in support of Al Qaeda in Iraq,” allegedly disbursing well over $1 million in support of the organization through multiple channels. The UN also states that Dari “provided operational guidance to AQI for attacks on civilian targets in Iraq” and that he “attended training meetings conducted by AQI, during which he explained AQI’s future intentions to trainees.”
The former US Ambassador to Syria, Robert S. Ford, writes that Dari and his father, Harith al Dari, worked with Saddam Hussein “out of Baghdad’s Umm al-Qura Mosque – the one with minarets designed to look like AK-47s.” According to Ford, their Association of Muslim Scholars has been allied with Izzat Ibrahim al Douri, a former Baathist official whose Naqshibandi Army helped the Islamic State conquer western Iraq last summer. Douri’s organization was just sanctioned by the Treasury Department last month. The Daris’ Association of Muslim Scholars also reportedly reacted to the Islamic State’s conquest of Western Iraq by welcoming the “great victories achieved by the revolutionaries.”
UN member states are obligated to freeze the assets of individuals on the sanctions list and to subject them to strict travel bans. But it seems that some US allies in the region are inconsistently applying these restrictions.
For example, in 2013, the Arabic daily Asharq al-Awsat quoted Muthanna al Dari complaining about the UN sanctions and Iraq’s decision to void his passport. “I cannot travel from Amman where we have settled except to Qatar,” Dari reportedly said. According to the paper, Dari spoke to them by phone from the Qatari capital of Doha. This was an apparent violation of the UN’s travel ban.
Muthanna al Dari has also been subject to US sanctions on charges of funding AQI, as was his father, Harith al Dari. One month after Harith al Dari was sanctioned by Washington in 2008 on charges of funding al Qaeda and “directing attacks against civilians and Iraqi and Coalition Forces,” he received an audience with Qatar’s then-ruler, Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani. When Harith al Dari passed away this March, Al Thani, who is now Qatar’s Father Emir, visited Jordan to relay his condolences and was videotaped exchanging hugs and kisses with Muthanna. Pictures posted online purportedly show the younger Dari back in Qatari territory as recently as this summer.
UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon was himself photographed with an alleged al Qaeda financier earlier this year. In 2013, the US Treasury Department imposed sanctions on Yemeni Abdulwahhab al Humayqani, claiming that he “provided financial support” to al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), “issued religious guidance in support of AQAP operations,” and “reportedly… served as the acting AQAP amir” in the Yemeni province of al-Bayda’.
In June, the exiled Yemeni government brought Humayqani as a member of its delegation to the UN-sponsored ceasefire negotiations with Iranian-backed Houthi rebels in Geneva. It was during these talks that Ban Ki-Moon was awkwardly photographed smiling and shaking hands with the alleged onetime AQAP prince.
Saudi Arabia has reportedly let in another Yemeni, Abdulmajeed al Zindani, who is subject to terror finance sanctions by both the UN and Washington. In 2004, the US Treasury Department added Zindani to the US government’s list of specially designated global terrorists. Zindani was described as an “[Osama] bin Laden loyalist” at the time and he is still designated as a terrorist by the US and UN more than a decade later. The Treasury Department noted in its December 2013 designation of Humayqani that he and Zindani have “issued religious guidance in support of AQAP operations.”
But in an apparent violation of UN travel sanctions, Zindani has been repeatedly photographed in Saudi territory during recent weeks, including allegedly receiving an audience with the kingdom’s grand mufti.
Humayqani has also had a prominent presence in Saudi territory. He has been a frequent guest on Gulf media outlets, including Qatar-based Al Jazeera Arabic, the Dubai-based, Saudi-owned Al Hadath News, and even Saudi Arabia’s state news channel, Al Ekhbariya. Likewise, Muthanna al Dari and his father before him have been frequent guests on Al Jazeera, which lauded his late father as a “brave scholar,” a “sheikh,” and as “a national symbol influential in resisting tyranny,” while downplaying the US allegations and terror finance sanctions imposed against him.
These developments suggest that US allies such as Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and Jordan have been disregarding UN and US terror finance sanctions at times. However, the UN’s leadership may be making the effort to enforce these anti-terror measures more difficult by meeting with individuals on the UN’s own sanctions list.