A New Executive Order Risks Sending Funds Claimed by Families of 9/11 Victims to the Taliban

Following the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan in August, the Taliban took control of the country, sending its long-troubled economy into a tailspin. Nearly 80 percent of the government’s budget had come from international funding, which was suspended following the terrorist organization’s takeover. Meanwhile, the Federal Reserve Bank in New York has frozen a $7 billion account that belonged to the former Afghan government.

On Friday, Presiden Biden signed an executive order aimed at unfreezing this account; half the money would go toward provide financial assistance to the Afghan people, who are in dire straits, and the other half would be placed in a humanitarian trust fund that may be used to support the families of 9/11 victims (though this is not guaranteed). Many of these families have been seeking restitution from the Afghan government for years and have forcefully protested this move. As Aamer Madhani and Kathy Gannon note, they argue that money that rightfully belongs to American citizens will almost certainly be confiscated by the Taliban.

Biden’s plan aims to resolve a complex situation in which the U.S. is sitting on billions owned by a country where there is no government it recognizes, with competing appeals for the money for the crying needs of the Afghan people and families still scarred by the 2001 attacks.

U.S. courts where 9/11 victims have filed claims against the Taliban will have to take additional action for victims and families to be compensated from the $3.5 billion, deciding if they have a claim, according to senior administration officials who brief reporters.

The Biden administration is still working through details of setting up the trust fund, an effort the White House says will likely take months.

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Read more at U.S. News and World Report

More about: Afghanistan, Joseph Biden, Taliban, War on Terror

The Arab Press Blames Iran Rather Than Israel for Gaza’s Woes

Following the fighting between Israel and Islamic Jihad over the weekend, many journalists and commentators in Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates, and Saudi Arabia didn’t rush to condemn the Jewish state. Instead, as the translators at the Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI) note, they criticized the terrorist group for “operating in service of Iranian interests and thus inflicting suffering on the Gaza Strip’s residents.” One Saudi intellectual, Turki al-Hamad, wrote the following on Twitter:

It is apparent that, if at one time any confrontation between Israel and the Palestinian organizations would attract world and Arab attention and provoke a wave of anger [against Israel], today it does not shock most Arabs and most of the world’s [countries]. Furthermore, even a sense of human solidarity [with the Palestinians] has become rare and embarrassing, raising the question, “Why [is this happening] and who is to blame?”

I believe that the main reason is the lack of confidence in all the Palestinian leaders. . . . From the Arabs’ and the world’s perspective, it is already clear that these leaders are manipulating the [Palestinian] cause out of self-interest and diplomatic, economic, or even personal motives, and that the Palestinian issue is completely unconnected to this. The Palestinian cause has become a bargaining chip in the hands of these and other organizations and states headed by the [Iranian] ayatollah regime.

A, article in a major Arabic-language newspaper took a similar approach:

In a lengthy front-page report on August 7, the London-based UAE daily Al-Arab criticized Islamic Jihad, writing that “Gaza again became an arena for the settling of accounts between Iran and Israel, while the Palestinian citizens are the ones paying the price.” It added that Iran does not want to confront Israel directly for its bombings in Syria and its attacks on Iranian scientists and nuclear facilities.

“The war in Gaza is not the first, nor will it be the last. But it proves . . . that Iran is exploiting Gaza as it exploits Lebanon, in order to strengthen its hand in negotiations with the West. We all know that Iran hasn’t fired a single bullet at Israel, and it also will not do this to defend Gaza or Lebanon.”

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Read more at MEMRI

More about: Gaza Strip, Iran, Islamic Jihad, Israel-Arab relations, Persian Gulf