This week we discuss Islamic Relief's ties to terrorism with Tom Quiggin, and the future of the Iraqi people with Seth Frantzman.

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Canadian Charity Funds Mideast Terror
An interview with Tom Quiggin – Report exposes Islamic Relief Canada’s ties to terror groups
Tom Quiggin has 30 years of practical experience in security and intelligence matters and is a court expert on the reliability of intelligence as evidence and on terrorism. He has worked in a variety of intelligence positions with the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, the Canadian Armed Forces, the UN Protection Force in Yugoslavia, and Citizen and Immigration Canada. He recently published a report exposing Islamic Relief Canada and is the author of “Seeing the Invisible: National Security Intelligence in an Uncertain Age.”
Social Media: @TomTSEC //
Tom Quiggin’s 132-page investigative report, which he prepared for the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, calls for closer scrutiny of Canadian politicians who direct funds to the charity Islamic Relief Canada. These politicians are fully aware that most of these funds will find their way to Islamic Relief Worldwide but choose to ignore their money trail. Ultimate destinations for Islamic Relief Worldwide’s funds include Hamas and similar extremist and terrorist groups. Funding designated terror groups is a criminal offense and begs the question why members of the Liberal party in Canada are engaged with such a questionable charity.

While terrorist funding in Canada via charities has been the case for years, the difference today is that under the current Trudeau government, it is no longer just external entities seeking to exploit government registered charities. Significantly, members of parliament are now themselves   directing taxpayers’ monies to federally registered charities that in turn forward monies to terrorist entities.

Islamic Relief Worldwide, headquartered in the U.K., is one of the largest Islamic charities worldwide, with close ties to the Muslim Brotherhood, which was designated a terror organization by Egypt, the U.A.E., and Israel. The Bangladeshi government, fearing the radicalization of its Rohingya Muslim population, has blocked Islamic Relief. The UBS Bank of Switzerland and the HSBC bank have both cut ties to the charity, citing similar concerns.

The U.K. recently removed Islamic Relief from its list of 400 approved Islamic charities. Lorenzo Vidino, a scholar and globally-recognized expert on Muslim Brotherhood affiliates outside of the Middle East, testified against Islamic Relief in the Canadian senate. Since its founding in 1984, the charity has established franchises in over 20 countries and received hundreds of millions of dollars in donations. Within the last ten years, Western governments, along with U.S. taxpayers, provided a significant portion of the charity’s approximately $80,000,000 of income. 

Among Canadian parliamentary members engaged with Islamic Relief Canada are the Hon. Omar Alghabra, until recently a junior foreign minister, who stood in parliament to voice support for the charity and has attended many of its fundraisers; and the Minister of Immigration and Refugees, Ahmed Hussen, who is a key driver in funding Islamic Relief Canada. Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland and the Minister of International Development Marie-Claude Bibeau have funded Islamic Relief Canada from their ministries’ budgets. Most disturbingly, Prime Minister Trudeau volunteers for the charity and has appeared in a promotional video for the group. 

Much like Hamas, Hezbollah, and the Muslim Brotherhood, Islamic Relief Worldwide provides legitimate disaster relief because it recognizes that popular support is necessary for its survival. Claiming that its practices have passed an audit by the U.K.’s Disaster Emergency Committee (DEC), an umbrella group representing 14 U.K. aid charities, closer investigation revealed that the audit report, which has not been released, was approved by former senior officials of Islamic Relief Worldwide.

As Canadian auditors are typically not sensitized to search for extremist ties, they are likely to miss the fact that monies collected by Islamic Relief Canada, as is the case with Islamic Relief affiliate branches elsewhere (i.e., America, Germany, Netherlands, France, Australia, etc.), are passed on to Islamic Relief Worldwide and its nefarious uses.

The increasing need to scrutinize Canadian politicians who fund terror-linked charities is only one indication that certain government officials hold views that are anathema to Western standards of freedom. Another indicator is MP Iqra Khalid, who is on public record supporting Sharia law and Salafism, a fundamentalist form of Islam. Khalid, who this year announced that $23 million of taxpayers’ money will support a resolution to censor free speech and any criticism of Islamism (“Anti-Islamophobia” motion M-103), also announced that one of the two organizations to receive those monies is Islamic Relief Canada.

New Leadership in the Iraqi Government
An interview with Seth Frantzman – What lies ahead for the Iraqi people

Seth Frantzman is a journalist and analyst concentrating on the Middle East. He is the Op-Ed Editor and analyst on Middle East Affairs at The Jerusalem Post, and his work has appeared in The National Interest, The Hill, National Review, The Moscow Times, and Rudaw, based in Iraq. As a correspondent and researcher, he has covered the war on ISIS in Iraq and security in Turkey, Egypt, the Palestinian Authority, Jordan, the UAE and eastern Europe. 
Social Media: @sfrantzman //

Frantzman, based in the Middle East, came to the region to study the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. With the rise of ISIS in 2014 and the resulting genocide in northern Iraq, he felt compelled to expand his focus and document the major changes in the region that he views as tantamount to the massive shifts that occurred at the end of the Ottoman Empire in 1918.

The election of Iraq’s new Kurdish president, Barham Salih, and Shia Islamist prime minister designate, Abdul Mahdi, reinforces Washington’s narrative of low expectations. Specifically, this narrative describes the candidates as moderate because the outcome of the elections was expected to produce a hardline pro-Iranian government in Baghdad. While it certainly cannot be described as pro-Western, the government that will take shape is likely to be more balanced.

Mahdi lived in Iran during the Islamic revolution of the 1980’s and has an Islamist background, but was more secular and interested in socialism and communism in his youth. He is seen as more of an economic pragmatist than ideologue. Salih is from the PKK, a Kurdish party more connected to Iran. Washington questions whether the new government will take a firmer stand against Iranian-backed militias and routes of Iranian encroachment into Iraq than the former one.

Other countries in the region, like Saudi Arabia, who warmed relations with Iraq in the last year, did not want to see another Nuri al-Maliki in power. Riyadh’s engagement with the Iraqi cleric, Muqtada al Sadr, who now self-describes as an Iraqi nationalist, produced little in terms of coalition building. Instead of participating in the formation of the Iraqi government, Al Sadr remains watchful from the sidelines, giving the current government a year to eliminate corruption. If it fails to do so, he will be at odds with it.

Both Riyadh and Washington are challenged by the fact that the sectarian Shiite militias who were raised to fight ISIS have now been officially incorporated into the Iraqi security forces. Congress looks to sanction individual militias, but in the northern Kurdish region of Iraq there are somewhat more secular, pro-American, and democratic areas that have greater stability than the rest of Iraq. Despite this, there are conflicts between the Kurdish Democratic Party (KDP) and the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK).

Nonetheless, the key to the entire Iraqi puzzle lies with Turkey, Iran, and the Shiite militias. Should the U.S. want to confront Iran, it is there. Washington should forego pressuring the Kurdish region into supporting Baghdad. Instead, it would be better to deal with Irbil directly and take the Kurds on their own terms. Rather than driving the message home that Kurds should become Iraqi nationalists, differences between the PUK and the KDP should be resolved and the Kurdish region’s economy and security interests strengthened.

Since 2003, Iraq has become a hollowed-out version of its former self. It has gone from a country with a heavy American presence on the ground to one with a new constitution, from an insurgency to the surge, followed by an American drawdown that left behind a Shiite strongman. The relationship with the U.S. during the Obama administration was one where the U.S. stood by and allowed the Iranian takeover of Iraq, thinking that it would bring stability and facilitate an Iranian nuclear deal. Instead, Iraq was destabilized by the rise of ISIS.

Even the Iraqi elections have been plagued by chaotic problems that vex the country. Basra, with all its oil and money, has yet to restore such basic services as potable water, which is polluted, or to address problems resulting from destroyed infrastructure. All the wasted billions of dollars, tanks, and training that America poured into Iraq to mold the direction of the country has not yielded returns. The Iraqis will ultimately have to decide what direction its government policies will take. Iraq’s challenge is in how its limited democracy will manage the differences between Sunni, Shia, and Kurdish parties.

Summary accounts by Marilyn Stern, Communications Coordinator for the Middle East Forum