The fallout from the ill-fated "Freedom Flotilla" appears far from over. The initial reaction focused on Israel's raid of the ship attempting to break the blockade of Gaza, which killed nine. Now, however, the Turkish charity that sponsored the flotilla is being investigated by the United States for its possible ties to terrorism.
Key congressmen are pushing the Obama administration to complete its investigations "swiftly." House Foreign Affairs Chairman Howard L. Berman, California Democrat, and Ed Royce, California Republican, the ranking member of the Foreign Affairs terrorism subcommittee, sent a letter last week to the Treasury Department stating that publicly available information "strongly supports designating" as a terrorist entity the Foundation for Human Rights and Humanitarian Relief, also known as the Turkish IHH.
Although they referenced "the group's sponsorship of the provocative flotilla in May," Berman and Royce relied mostly on the group's reported connections to Hamas and al Qaeda, which predated the incident.
For example, the letter cites the statement of French counterterrorism magistrate Jean-Louis Bruguiere, who said that in the case of the millennium bombing plot that targeted Los Angeles in 1999, the Turkish IHH was "basically helping al-Qaida when [Osama] bin Laden started to want to target U.S. soil."
The letter's timing was opportunistic. Just one week earlier, the State Department sent a letter to Rep. Ron Klein, a hawkish Florida Democrat, in which it admitted that "U.S. government agencies are taking a close look at IHH" for terrorist designation because "serious questions of support to terrorist organizations have been raised."
While it appears that the group has been pushing the terrorism envelope for years, it likely has become a priority for U.S. investigators now because of its sponsorship of the flotilla.
Judging by the recent rash of terrorism designations for Iranian-linked entities, the Obama counterterrorism team has been focusing these days primarily on the Iranian mullahs. The Treasury Department, which is responsible for most designations, recently pulled analysts off other investigations to focus on Iranian-related cases, according to a former Treasury official who spoke on condition of anonymity.
Designating the Turkish IHH would help thwart its ability to assist terrorists. If it is named a Specially Designated Global Terrorist, the Turkish IHH would be shut out from the U.S. financial system, and it could not work with U.S. charities, nongovernmental organizations or governmental agencies, nor could it raise money here. Such a designation also could help in freezing IHH money flows in the United States and elsewhere.
Joel Mowbray, who got his start with Townhall.com, is an award-winning investigative journalist, nationally-syndicated columnist and author of Dangerous Diplomacy: How the State Department Threatens America's Security.
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