Pennsylvania Sen. Bob Casey will spend next week’s U.S. Senate recess in the Middle East, in part to research legislation he may propose related to prosecuting people who give money to the Islamic State.
Casey plans to spend six days in Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Israel and Qatar. He will have military security with him and a staff member from his Senate office, said Jacklin Rhodes, Casey’s press secretary.
I believe we are at a critical moment in our relationship with some of the Gulf countries.
Sen. Bob Casey, D-Pa.
Already, Casey, a Democrat, has introduced bipartisan legislation with Sens. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, and David Perdue, R-Ga., that aims to bar Syrian antiquity imports to the United States. That bill would allow President Barack Obama and the State Department to place import restrictions on historical artifacts that have been stolen by Islamic State members for sale on the black market.
U.S. officials have been told that stolen antiquity trafficking may be the second largest source of revenue for the Islamic State, according to Casey’s office. In 2014, Matthew Levitt of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy testified before the U.S. House Committee on Financial Services that it’s impossible to know how much the Islamic State makes from selling artifacts, but he noted that one lion sculpture from the Middle East had sold for $50 million in New York in 2007.
Casey is mulling legislative options to put pressure on Arab countries in the Persian Gulf to better identify and prosecute people who help fund Islamic State terrorism, Rhodes said.
The U.S. is at “a critical moment in our relationship with some of the Gulf countries,” Casey said in a statement Friday. “They need to step up both militarily and on the financing side to combat ISIS.”
He called on U.S. allies to “make the fight against ISIS a primary mission.”
In Saudi Arabia and Qatar, Casey plans to meet with government officials to press for more action against the Islamic State and terrorism financiers, Rhodes said. In Turkey, he will research how ISIS uses smuggling networks to make money.
During the trip, Casey will meet with senior officials in Israel and visit with military service members based at the Al Udeid Air Base in Qatar.