Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Seymour Hersh’s New Yorker article titled, “The Redirection: Is the Administration’s new policy benefiting our enemies in the war on terrorism?”, and quoted by Tony Cartalucci in his piece, says:
“To undermine Iran, which is predominantly Shiite, the Bush Administration has decided, in effect, to reconfigure its priorities in the Middle East. In Lebanon, the Administration has cooperated with Saudi Arabia’s government, which is Sunni, in clandestine operations that are intended to weaken Hezbollah, the Shiite organisation that is backed by Iran. The US has also taken part in clandestine operations aimed at Iran and its ally Syria. A by-product of these activities has been the bolstering of Sunni extremist groups that espouse a militant vision of Islam and are hostile to America and sympathetic to Al Qaeda.”
Bangkok-based geopolitical researcher and writer Tony Cartalucci, especially for the online magazine New Eastern Outlook concludes his article with, “While the US downplays the sectarian aspects of ISIS’s invasion of Iraq before global audiences, its propaganda machine across the Middle East, assisted by Doha and Riyadh, is stoking sectarian tensions. The ISIS has committed itself to a campaign of over-the-top sectarian vitriol and atrocities solely designed to trigger a wider Sunni-Shia’a conflict.” (Published June 18 2014 by Global Research)
Renowned writer Aryn Baker writing for Time in her article published on July 19, 2014, titled ‘Why Iran Believes the Militant Group ISIS Is an American Plot’, says, “In its previous incarnation as an Iraqi al-Qaeda affiliate, ISIS has been responsible for thousands of Shi‘ite deaths in terrorist attacks since its formation in 2003. The group’s current success in Iraq — by some estimates it now controls a third of Iraq’s territory, including the city of Mosul — has as much to do with its considerable funding and military prowess as it does the weaknesses of the Iraqi state, led by Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, an Iranian-backed Shi‘ite who has alienated Iraq’s large Sunni minority.”
The writer goes on to state, “Yet Iranian government officials refuse to accept that there is a sectarian root to ISIS’s agenda, or that ISIS was able to advance in part because of Sunni discontent. When American leaders suggested that al-Maliki’s Shi‘ite chauvinism may have played a role in rallying Sunni support for the ISIS advance into Iraq, and suggested he step down, Iranians saw it as a direct threat to their influence… Instead Iran has declared the group a region-wide terrorist threat that funded and peopled by outsiders, including the US, Saudi Arabia and other Gulf monarchies.”
The key question that caught my eye here was ISIS’ considerable funding and military prowess. How difficult can it be to trace the chain of funding? To determine who is funding whom?
However, sometimes this may not be as easy as it sounds, according to David Palllister for The Guardian (February 8, 2007) who in a stunning expose, shares, “The US flew nearly $12bn in shrink-wrapped $100 bills into Iraq, then distributed the cash with no proper control over who was receiving it and how it was being spent. The staggering scale of the biggest transfer of cash in the history of the Federal Reserve has been graphically laid bare by a US Congressional Committee… The memorandum details the casual manner in which the US-led Coalition Provisional Authority disbursed the money, which came from Iraqi oil sales, surplus funds from the UN oil-for-food programme and seized Iraqi assets. The minutes from a May 2004 CPA meeting reveal “a single disbursement of $500m in security funding labelled merely ‘TBD’, meaning ‘to be determined’.”
This does NOT mean that the US is involved in funding ISIS but the example is used to show how sheer carelessness and in other cases deliberate cleverness can be used to cover the funding trail.
Yet again, the finger is pointed towards some rich Qataris ensuring a steady supply of funds to the ISIS: “Former US Navy Admiral and NATO Supreme Commander James Stavridis says the cash flow from private donors is significant now and was even more significant in the early fundraising done by ISIS and al Qaeda’s affiliate in Syria, the al-Nusrah Front,” says Robert Windrem for NBC News. According to the report, ISIS is making $1 million per day from all its sources. US officials believe that it is the oil smuggling adjacent to the border of Turkey yields the largest income to the group. The ISIS had taken over the Iraqi and Syrian oilfields offering barrel price of oil as ridiculously low as $25 per unit. There is a deep end to this, says Luay al-Khatteeb for CNN, “ISIS controls smuggling routes and the crude transported by tankers to Jordan via Anbar province, to Iran via Kurdistan, to Turkey via Mosul, to Syria’s local market and to the Kurdistan region of Iraq, where most of it gets refined locally.”
A June 18, 2014 news report by The Telegraph says that the major haul of ISIS income comes from smuggling of antiques and funds coming in from oil sales. Plus, of course, acquiring towns in Iraq has helped ISIS take over American made ammunition and supplies. “Everybody knows the money is going through Kuwait and that it’s coming from the Arab Gulf,” said Andrew Tabler, senior fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. “Kuwait’s banking system and its money changers have long been a huge problem because they are a major conduit for money to extremist groups in Syria and now Iraq.” (The Daily Beast)
If these claims are true why can the sources be not capped? What stops powerful states like US, UK and others who can invade nations to impose embargos and use the multifaceted tools to ensure the cash flow trickles down to a stop? A report states Turkey, Qatar and Kuwait as supporting and funding ISIS. Wait a minute, are they not allies to USA?
A report states, “Another constructive move would be to gauge the potential for altering Washington’s contentious dynamics with Kuwait and Qatar regarding terrorism financing. There are signs that ISIS’ “successes” may fuel higher levels of private Saudi and other Gulf support to a variety of Sunni extremist groups operating in Iraq and Syria, which would be important to counter. At the same time, the current reality — that of ISIS acquiring major independent sources of income — demands a counter-terrorism financing approach that shifts away from focusing on private donations made by residents of Saudi Arabia and other Gulf countries. Significantly undermining ISIS’s financial base would now require rolling back the group’s access to local Syrian and Iraqi income sources.”
The key is to develop a counter-terrorism strategy that not only meets ISIS on its terrorism based tactics but also drains their sources. Unfortunately, there seems to be a deficit of long term understanding of the fallout effects of shortsighted policies carried out individually and nationally.
Apparently, as the treatment requires long term and persistently focused implementation, no such strategy is being pursed. Therefore the disease is being treated symptomatically at best. This will not work.
– Yasmeen Aftab Ali is a lawyer, columnist and author of ‘A Comparative Analysis of Media & Media Laws in Pakistan’. She tweets @yasmeen_9