Wednesday, December 23, 2015

The Funding of Terror

Can Anything Be Done?

ISIS is believed to be taking in an estimated $3 Million a day in illicit proceeds to fund its cause; an annual total of well over a Billion US Dollars ($1,095,000,000).

Just so you’ll know, the acronym “ISIS” is often translated: The “Islamic State of Iraq and Syria” and alternatively: The “Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant” (ISIL) . . . Just a little reminder, Levant is a geographical term that refers to the large area in Southwest Asia depicted on the map on the left.

They are known to generate funds in several of ways:

Donations . . .                        

In its infancy, ISIS relied heavily on cash donations from sympathizers.   A considerable amount of such donations were from wealthy Arabs in the Persian Gulf area who believed in the group’s ideology. The majority of those funds came from the country of Qatar (pronounced ˈkɑːtɑr).   After Saudi Arabia, Qatar is one of the most conservative societies in the region as most Qataris adhere to the strict “Wahhabi” interpretation of Islam which is a branch of Sunni Islam—often described as “orthodox” and “ultraconservative”.  Add the fact that the Qatari government does not strictly enforce laws regarding the flow of currency beyond its borders, whereas neighboring countries such as Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates do, “fertile ground” you might say, for financing radical and terrorist groups is common-place.  

ISIS started out by hiring a few skill fundraisers to seek out financing. These people would meet with wealthy individuals throughout the Persian Gulf region seeking sponsors for their cause. Furthermore, (then and now), ISIS found that social media sites such as Facebook & Twitter were ideal methods for displaying propaganda that would reach a broader audience and solicit more funds. Using social media has not only helped raise funds for the extremist group’s cause, but it also consistently aids it in its recruitment efforts.

Why, you might ask did geographically small Qatar become such a huge tool in the early development of ISIS?  Well, beyond its traditional views of the Islamic faith, Qatar is an influential player in the Arab world.  The country has a high income economy backed by the world’s third largest oil and natural gas reserve.  It has the highest per capita income in the world, and has the second highest standard of living in the Middle East.


Recruitment . . .  

Such efforts include western youth who are proficient with the Internet and social media. These recruiters are located throughout the Middle East, Europe and the Western world. They are looking for jihadi supporters in mostly non-Muslim regions such as France, the United Kingdom, and the United States. Generally speaking these young western recruits, both men & women, head to join the fight in countries like Syria; however some are strategically positioned to help raise money for the cause through criminal activity.

Kidnapping and Ransom . . .  

While wealthy supporters still provide generous donations, the “West” has done a pretty good job at making it rather difficult.   Banks do pay especially close attention to sanctions, the financing of terrorist, and money laundering activities. As a result, ISIS is happy to compete with al-Qaida and use ransom demands from kidnappings as another source of revenue. You see, kidnapping and demanding ransom is a low-cost way for such terror groups to rake in thousands to millions of Dollars. By far, the majority of the kidnapped victims are from European and Western countries who are generally employees of large corporations, many of whom discretely pay the ransom to secure the release of their employees.

Many European countries pay millions of dollars in ransom every year.  A limited few: The United States, the United Kingdom, and Poland have government policies that do not allow nor support paying ransoms in order to obtain an abducted individual’s freedom.  Failure to pay a ransom often results in the victims or hostages from such areas to be made a spectacle of before being executed; a procedure intended to enhance the terror group’s political agenda.  On the other hand, when ransoms are paid, it encourages the terrorists to kidnap more people and demand more money.

 Human trafficking . . .  

Recently, evidence shows that female British ISIS recruits have established a militia known as “al-
Khanssaa”—it’s an all-female group which serves as an ultra-religious police force. The mission of this group is to punish any un-Islamic behavior displayed by females in ISIS-controlled territories.

As a form of punishment, al-Khanssaa is known to force such females into sexual slavery. Women and young girls of all ages are taken from their villages where ISIS militants gained control. They are brought to areas where ISIS has large populations, usually in and around northern Iraq; upon arrival in an ISIS controlled city, some of the girls are offered to ISIS fighters as gifts, otherwise they are either put into ISIS-run brothels or sold at slave auctions. Bidding for these girls usually begins around $10 to $25 but can go as high as $150.

Extortion, taxes and checkpoints . . .   

ISIS routinely uses scare tactics to acquire capital from local businesses and civilians in the cities or territories it has successfully gained control. Before entering the cities, people are stopped at checkpoints so as to ensure they are following Muslim laws and rules.   When an individual is determined “rebellious”, he or she undergoes beatings, fines, “education sessions” or worse.

ISIS collects taxes on most anything it considers to be of value, including businesses, commercial vehicles, cell phone towers, etc.   Of those unfortunates determined to be non-Muslim, payment of an “Infidel Tax” ensures their safety until they convert or dieThe penalty for refusing to pay is greeted with violence, destruction of property, kidnapping and even murder.

Control of natural resources . . .

As ISIS has conquered territories in Iraq and set up strongholds, the terror group has been able to gain control of portions of the most fertile farmlands that are responsible for producing as much as 40% of Iraqi wheat.

The revolutionaries have also stolen somewhere in the neighborhood of 50,000 tons of grain from government-owned silos, which they milled into flour and subsequently sold. This has caused instability of the region from a lack of food which in turn has significantly driven up the price of food.  This in-turn is inevitably increasing ISIS’s wheat profit margins.

Just when you start to believe the ISIS movement is in perfect harmony and the militants are doing everything right to gain control of Iraq and beyond a hind of failure creeps onto the scene . . .  Case-in-point: They were ever so briefly able to take control one of Iraq’s largest dams, the Mosul Dam, in the city of Mosul, the aim was to generate funds through hydroelectric power and the water supply; they have since attempted to take control of the Haditha Dam but failed in that endeavor as well.

Why you might ask was these failures so significant?  Well, the Mosul Dam is located on the Tigris River, and the Haditha Dam is located on the Euphrates River. Indicators show that 95% of Iraq’s water comes from these two rivers.  In other words if ISIS were to take control these two dams, it would could easily cripple the country’s water supply, putting the entire region in peril.

Robbery . . .   

ISIS has also been generating funds by way of selling stolen goods. Militants are known to rob banks, civilian homes, stores, and even loot areas for priceless antiques and artifacts. Historically, such fundraising methods are typical of terror groups.   Al-Qaida is especially fond of this method but ISIS claims this funding method all their own.

Both Iraq and Syria were once a large part of Mesopotamia universally referred to as the “cradle of civilization.” The entire area is rich with ancient artifacts, many of which date back thousands of years.   ISIS considers this an opportunity for stealing and selling the works of art on the black market.

Oil smuggling . . .  

The lion’s share of ISISs’ funding is through the black-market sale of oil from the
oil fields the militants have seized in eastern Iraq and Syria. ISIS produces between 25,000 and 40,000 barrels of oil every day.   ISIS now supports several black-market oil refineries along the Syrian border and eastern Iraq.  Not only do these refineries produce gasoline, they also produce heating oil..

The smuggling networks that ISIS has created to export crude oil are elaborate. They mostly follow a path into Turkey however the group has been smuggling crude oil as far as Afghanistan and Armenia. Yes, middlemen are paid to assist the group in smuggling the oil, resulting in millions of Dollars generated for the fighters.

ISIS also takes oil directly from pipelines and storage tanks. Militants then load the oil onto trucks and sell the barrels on the black market for $25 to $60 per barrel—that’s as much as 74% below market. In any event, the over-all earnings estimate for the sale of oil is expansive: From $1 million to $2 million per day.

As was mentioned above, Iraq and Syria were once a part of Mesopotamia.  It is commonly referred to as the “cradle of civilization” because the region was first among human kind to determine that life could be better if they could just get thing organized; this occurred sometime around 3,000 BC following hundreds of years of migrating in “hunter gatherer” groups that originated on the continent of Africa.  Point being, the leaders of ISIS have an excellent gene pool to draw from as is evidenced by the complex system of criminal activities they have developed to made it the best-funded terrorist group in all of history. The amassing of its ample wealth has permitted the group to increase its operational scope, attain weapons & resources and recruit local and foreign fighters.

Only when countries in the Middle East strengthen their money-laundering policies and police black-market trade more effectively can they begin to put a small dent in ISIS’s efforts to amass its fortune and continue to terrorize the Middle East and the Western world.

On a related front, why has the “West” (particularly the United States, the United Kingdom, and France), become so deeply gripped in this quagmire of unrest?  Some say it stems only from the west’s addiction to oil, however the first oil well wasn’t drilled in the Middle East until 1908 in Persia (now Iran) and not until the 1950’s was oil a significant commodity in the Middle East.  The fact is there was an abundance of “crude” available to those countries that had developed the need for oil in locations beyond the Middle East.    

The argument has been made that the constant “meddling” into the internal affairs of the various governments and factions by multiple Western Governments throughout the Middle Eastern Region is the real cause.  You need only bring to mind Great Britain’s favorite boast — “the sun never sets on the empire”—to recognize the legitimacy of this way of thinking.   It is often reasoned that such intrusive action by the west began as early as the Crusades in 1095, when armies of Christians from Western Europe responded to Pope Urban II’s plea to go to war against Muslim forces in the “Holy Land”.

Others simply charge that deep religious divides primarily between radicalized Muslims and moderate Jews and Christians are just too great to overcome. 

In any event, the current “head-man” at ISIS is a fellow that goes by the name of Bakr al-Baghdadi and he’s no stranger to the west.  Al-Baghdadi was arrested on February 2nd by US Forces-Iraq in 2004 and was detained at Camp Bucca.   Now closed, Camp Bucca was an isolated desert prison that was once the largest lockup in all of Iraq. He was held there until December of 2004.   When he was released, he was classified as a “low level prisoner”.  Surprised, fact is several “future” ISIS lower level leaders were imprisoned and released from Camp Bucca.

Regardless it didn’t take long for “Al-Baghdadi” to demonstrate just how wrong the Americans were:  On May 16, 2010 he was pronounced leader of The Islamic State of Iraq (ISI)—also known as al-Qaeda in Iraq (AQI).

Following the death of founder and head of al-Qaida, Osama bin Laden, on May 2nd of 2011, al-Baghdadi released a statement praising bin Laden and threatening violent retaliation for his death.  

Al-Baghdadi remained leader of the ISI until its formal expansion into Syria in 2013 when, in a statement in early April, he announced the formation of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS).

In late June of 2014, ISIS / ISIL announced the establishment of a “worldwide caliphate; naming Al-Baghdadi as caliph—the person considered to be a political and religious successor to the Islamic prophet, Muhammad, and a leader of the entire Muslim community.

A worldwide caliphate is the concept of a single theocratic one-world government, a scenario proposed by many extremist Muslims, in particular Bakr al-Baghdadi.  In 2014, Baghdadi even claimed to have succeeded in the creation of a worldwide caliphate.

In early July of 2014 The Huffington Post reported that al-Baghdadi announced via audio-taped message, that ISIL (ISIS) would march on “Rome” (Rome is generally interpreted to mean the West) in its quest to establish an Islamic State from the Middle East, extending  across Europe. He went on to say that he (meaning ISIS) would conquer both Rome and Spain in this endeavor and urged Muslims across the world to immigrate to the new Islamic State.

Perhaps it is long overdue for the west to simply remove it’s self from Middle Eastern affairs and apply all that wasted effort on ridding themselves of their never-ending thirst for oil and the “need” for political control of far off lands.

Some say this simply can’t be done, for example the United States (the most despised western country by radical Islam) consumed about 19.11 million barrels of oil every day in 2014.  More than 95% of which was dedicated to transportation; oil powers nearly every mile driven in America.   The bad news:  The US drives a lot of miles—three trillion annually.   The good news: Only 16% comes from the Persian Gulf region. 

Never the less, it is reasonably possible for the US to reduce its need for oil by adopting clean vehicle and fuel technologies that dramatically lower oil consumption—such as bio-fuel and electric cars. The truth is America’s projected oil use can be cut in half within the next 20 years by following this path.

But some say its long been too late for the West (the US included) to withdraw from the Middle East, and expect terrorist groups like ISIS to suddenly decide to abandon their goal of “one-world government”— naturally with their caliph playing the role of Supreme Leader.

The world may never know.