By Mick Krever, CNN
With the scrutiny of the world on ISIS’s alleged Gulf funders, billionaire Saudi businessman Alwaleed Bin Talal insisted in an interview with CNN’s Christiane Amanpour on Monday that his country has completely clamped down on the practice.
“Yes, we had a weakness over there, whereby some unfortunately some extremists in Saudi Arabia…did fund certain extremist elements in Syria. But Saudi Arabia has taken very strict rules to stop that from happening. And yes, right now all this has been stopped completely,” he said.
Qatar has come under the most scrutiny in its alleged funding of extremists like ISIS, as Amanpour discussed with that country’s emir last month.
But wealthy patrons in Saudi Arabia have also been under the spotlight, especially now that the country (along with Qatar and several other Gulf nations) have joined the American coalition against ISIS.
The clampdown, Alwaleed said, is “better late than never.”
“I think we are hopefully doing some good and positive by halting at least the ISIS move now into northern border, the border of Syria.”
The airstrikes against ISIS are an important “first step,” he said, but further action will be needed if the group is to be completely eradicated, as he said should be the goal.
“I think eventually that ground forces have to be committed, and may not necessarily be U.S. forces. There are a lot of surrogate forces that could be used, either the Iraqi forces after you upgrade them, and some of the Syrian elements, the Free Army elements could be used also. And maybe one day Turkey could also join.”
Amanpour asked whether his country would also commit troops to the cause.
“Well, I cannot talk on behalf of Saudi Arabia. But clearly the fact that Saudi Arabia right now is involved through its air force and is joining the U.S.-led coalition at a certain time in history, there may be a possibility for that.”
Despite Alwaleed’s claim of a crackdown, it will doubtless be near impossible to stop private citizens from funding extremists, or indeed traveling themselves to join the fight.
“There is a Quranic verse that says God will not change you until you change within yourself. And I think Islamic saying is very important – summarizes the whole thing.”
“What we have seen from our eyes, these horrendous act of just massacring and killing men and enslaving ladies, and imprisoning young people – that's a big lesson for us, that these people are just criminals. These have nothing to do with Islam.”
“We don’t have a problem with Islam. But you have a problem with Islamism, which is political Islam. And we need to neutralize that.”